Today is Christmas Eve, and I hope that you’re all set for the big day tomorrow. As you read this, Father Christmas has probably already set off on his travels. Thanks to NASA’s website, you can now track where he is delivering the presents to good boys and girls anywhere on earth – he’s probably doing Australia and New Zealand at this moment.
I’m not sure of the logistics of how Father Christmas gets presents into space and whether Rudolph and the other reindeers have to get into space suits, but presumably he will have to deliver this year to the International Space Station where Tim Peake, the British astronaut, is spending the next six months, having successfully launched into space last week.
Closer to home, it’s good that my eldest son is back from university to spend Christmas with us. Two of my brothers and their wives had children this year, so it will be lovely to see their first Christmas.
My own Christmas present came early this year, as I went to see the new Star Wars film last week. It’s not every day you can see a new Star Wars film, although that might change now that Disney have taken the franchise over.
I’ve been a Star Wars addict ever since my dad took me to see the original film in 1977 at the old Odeon cinema in Hartlepool when I was five. I like the fact that history repeats itself and my own kids wanted to come and see it, although I think I was probably more excited than they were. It didn’t disappoint – it’s a fantastic film, much of it made in Britain too.
Given how frantic the last few weeks and months have been, the thing I would like most of all for Christmas is sleep.
If Father Christmas gets me that, and I hope he’s listening even from as far away as Australia, I hope he will also get me the DVD of Peter Kay’s Car Share.
Mrs Wright has tried the old trick of saying something along the lines of “let’s not buy each other presents this year”. I have no idea why she does that – she would be absolutely furious if I took her at her word – and I’m far too long in the tooth to fall for that old chestnut.
Many people in Hartlepool and elsewhere will be fortunate like me and my family and be able to spend some time with their friends and family. Others will not be so fortunate, for a number of reasons.
There will be people working: in fact, the North East will be the region with the highest proportion of workers doing a shift on Christmas Day, whether that is care workers, nurses, doctors and emergency service workers from the Police, Fire and Ambulance Services.
The Armed Forces do not stop merely because it is Christmas, and many service personnel will be away from home keeping our country safe.
Many people will choose to spend the Christmas period eating out or staying in a hotel; spare a thought for these people in the restaurant and hospitality trade, many of whom are on little more than the minimum wage and who may very well be foregoing their own family Christmas to earn a wage and help you celebrate your own Christmas.
And there are also people who will be without this Christmas, either on their own or facing the fear of real hardship.
There will be children in our town, in the sixth richest economy in the world, who will not be able to enjoy a good Christmas dinner or enjoy receiving Christmas presents.
Times remain tough for many in Hartlepool, and I hope people stop to reflect about the true meaning of Christmas, that, regardless of faith or what beliefs you may or not have, a good Christmas means reconciliation, unity and helping others.
I hope that you have been able to spare a little to perhaps provide a gift for a child who you will never know but who will be eternally grateful, but who will be truly grateful, or donate to the Hartlepool Food Bank to ensure that a person or family in our town doesn’t go hungry this Christmas.
I do hope, however, that whatever your circumstances, you are able to spend time with the ones you love. Merry Christmas.