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Christmas cheer after a difficult year


Green Living
McKinley Neal

In our house we are going against all norms and starting to unleash Christmas a little at a time already: we have some baubles hanging off drawer handles, we’ve coloured in cardboard trees, and we’ve even read some stories about Santa.
I was going along with it for the sake of the kids, who needed some excitement to fill these extra damp and dark days of November, so I relented and opened the cupboard where Christmas is kept hidden most of the year. Then, when I agreed to write what they dictated for their Santa letters, I was genuinely moved.
The smallest one of course had loads of ideas that needed some clarification and shaping (‘A puppy? You mean a puppy teddy, right? Santa can’t bring a real puppy…’). But, the older one finished her rather modest toy requests with one final one: ‘And I wish everyone will have a good Christmas this year’.
That made me stop and consider how this year has impacted on our kids and all kids, who see the massive changes in their daily lives with activities and outings and fun with friends cancelled, some of their loved ones losing jobs and having a much harder time getting by, or not being able to visit vulnerable friends and family members.
It’s a reminder that not only can we wish that others have a nice Christmas, we have time to take action to make that happen. We will be looking out for more opportunities to help bring cheer and support to those family members and neighbours we know need it, ensuring that people have access to little things that might brighten their day.
An Post is offering free delivery of cards, letters, large envelopes and parcels weighing up to 2 kilos to residents of nursing and care homes in Ireland. Simply write ‘FREEPOST’ where the stamp should normally go, and drop it into a post box or the local post office. Most businesses are also very willing to help you find, purchase and post a gift for someone special. Now’s the time to start looking, to ensure that there is sufficient stock and time to get it where it needs to go.
I’m predicting that Advent calendars will extra popular this year, as it’s a great way to add a little excitement to each day. There are loads of options out there to buy of course – with chocolate, personal-care items, crafts, and so on – but it is also easy to make your own using small paper bags or reused boxes, labelled with a number and filled with small bits you know the recipient will love.
Then, for those of us who have a bit extra to share, there are requests for donations to local community resource centres and charities like St Vincent de Paul and the Mayo Roscommon Hospice, and Hannah Nevin is coordinating a collection for gifts for children and other necessities for adults in the Direct Provision Centre in Ballyhaunis. She can be contacted at

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.