The shops are full of red and silver tinsel and trinkets shaped like reindeer and you know what that means: the season of festive cheer and... uh... extravagant spending is upon us.
If you're planning a Christmas of brandy-soaked cake, fairy lights and mountains of gifts under the tree, knock yourself out (with mulled wine).
But first I'd like to ask you to do one small thing to give a stranger a happier Christmas, too.
When you've got a roof over your head and a stocking full of chocolate money, it's easy to think of "the less fortunate" in only the vaguest of terms, as some sort of Victorian relic which happens elsewhere and which somebody else should deal with. Perhaps you think "junkies have no-one to blame but themselves".
Well, I think it's all too easy for bored kids to make terrible decisions in the face of peer pressure. I think there have been too many unwanted redundancies which caused people to skip mortgage payments and lose their homes. I think too many babies are born blamelessly into poverty. I am horrified by what a financial struggle time off work for chemo (or any long term condition) can be.
Financial difficulties simply cannot be dismissed with the phrase, "it's always their own fault."
And when you're struggling to survive, Christmas isn't a better day than any other. In fact, it's often much, much worse.
So, what can you do to help make Christmas a little bit merrier for a stranger this year? Here are some ideas:
Give a Christmas gift
Type "Christmas appeal 2012" and
your home area into Google and I can almost guarantee you'll find an
organisation seeking donated gifts. In Aberdeen, for example, a quick
search reveals that Aberdeen Cyrenians needs warm clothes and treats for their homeless clients, VSA and Northsound Cash for Kids (which has just about the world's slowest website, but bear with it) are seeking toys for local children, and Mrs Murray's Cat and Dog Home runs an annual appeal for festive pet treats.
Give a little money
It doesn't have to be a lot. Skip a couple of lattes this month and give that tenner to charity. Anything is better than nothing. At this time of year, homelessness shelters and food parcel providers have turkey dinners to pay for; children's charities and a whole range of health and social support groups want to throw parties for their clients; animal shelters are expecting an influx of rejected Christmas pets to feed. They're all going to need more money.
I saw "maybe" because, in the UK at any rate, you will often need a disclosure check and a lot of training to work directly with vulnerable client groups; not many charities can afford that sort of time, effort and expense for somebody who will only be with them for a couple of hours a year. So, if you're wanting to ladle soup on Christmas Day, you may well be turned away. But what they may be looking for is people to spare a few hours in mid-December to help them process donations and wrap the Christmas gifts.
Now, I'm not asking you to do all of these things or to support every one of the charities I've mentioned. I know - it's an expensive time of year and you've already got a lot on your plate. But there are several hundred regular readers of this blog, and what I would love is if each one of you would just do one little thing which you wouldn't otherwise have thought to. Just one. Donate one children's toy or a little bit of cash or wrap a load of Christmas presents. One thing.
Because if all of the several hundred readers of this blog each do one little thing, just think how many hundred people out there could have a slightly happier Christmas as a result.