It’s a time when new parents half kill themselves buying presents for their little ones then watch in dismay as they ignore the expensive plastic toys to play with the wrapping paper.
It’s when we make ourselves feel bilious by overdosing on Christmas pudding and jumbo-sized tubs of chocolate sweeties and guzzling too much booze.
It’s when teenagers stay in bed all day and roll their eyes when asked to help with the washing-up or tidy their room.
But no matter how much our nearest and dearest irk and annoy us over Christmas, just imagine what it would be like without them, or having to live with the knowledge they have gone missing and you don’t even know if they are alive or dead.
For anyone who has lost someone they love, the grief at Christmas is intensity magnified.
All those adverts featuring happy families around the table, feasting and carousing, unwrapping presents around the tree or kissing under the mistletoe are like a punch in the stomach.
It’s almost unbearable when you realise you no longer have to buy your mum, dad, brother or sister a present or send them a card.
That empty chair on Christmas Day is utterly heartbreaking.
Then there are the thousands of people who have seen their loved ones disappear from the face of the earth.
They hope and pray they are safe somewhere and try not to lose hope.
High-profile cases such as the Madeleine McCann disappearance receive the most attention, but her parents Kate and Gerry are the first ones to highlight other families who are also suffering, and they have both done so much to help the Missing People charity through fundraising and awareness campaigns.
This week the police announced that they will not give up their search for Madeleine, who disappeared from a holiday resort in Portugal 11 years ago.
Despite spending £12million on the hunt for the little girl who was only three years old when she disappeared, we are still no nearer finding out what happened to her.
There has been criticism of the high cost of the investigation, which was granted a further £150,000 last month. Many have said the money would have been better spent in the fight against knife crime or getting more police on the streets.
But how do you put a price on the life of a child?
Surely the search for Madeleine and other missing children should be equally as important as trying to stop fatal stabbings, and we all agree that one of the most damaging policies ever carried out by government was to get rid of bobbies on the beat.
Does it really have to be a choice between finding children and saving them from being attacked by deadly weapons?
If it was your son or daughter who was missing then there would be no limit to the amount of money you would be willing to see poured into finding them and bringing them home safe and sound.
I cannot begin to imagine the agony parents of missing children go through and the heavy burden of despair they have to bear every day.
Many will never get peace of mind. There will be no resolution and they will continue to turn between having a sense of hope and feeling utter despair.
Some children leave home after a fight, a misunderstanding or just because they were unable to cope.
Sometimes they are suffering from a mental health problem and life becomes impossible, so they run away.
I would urge those who are scared to reach out and make contact for fear of being rebuffed, to simply pick up the phone or send a text or email, or better still just go home for Christmas.
Your family will not judge you — they will just be overwhelmingly glad to see you are safe and well.
If you don’t feel as though you are able to make direct contact, you can get in touch with the Missing People charity free on 116 000 and they can pass your message along as well as give you help and advice.
Christmas time is for families to be together, and reuniting would be the best present ever.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a merry Christmas — even those of you who disagree vehemently with things I’ve written in the past 12 months.
I love your lively feedback and look forward to more of the same in the new year.
Be kind to each other, keep safe . . . and here’s to a happier and less divisive and toxic 2019.
IT'S JEZ TYPICAL OF MPs
IT looked to me like Corbyn called the PM a “stupid woman”, continuing in that fine old tradition of male politicians being rude and disrespectful to their female colleagues.
He claims he said “stupid people” and even lip-readers are divided over what he actually muttered out of his pursed mouth.
Whatever the truth may be, I’m heartily sick and tired of the whole sorry bunch of them.
They’ve all now buggered off on holiday for three long weeks, leaving the whole Brexit omnishambles to stink and fester, while the rest of us are in limbo not knowing what next year has in store.
Ashley's last laugh
ALTHOUGH she was by far the best dancer on the night, there was no way Ashley Roberts was going to win Strictly.
A backlash from viewers angered by her previous dancing experience, and the British love of the underdog, left Ashley in fourth place in last week’s final.
I reckon, however, that in the end Ashley has won a much better prize that the coveted Glitterball. She has found love with the talented and ridiculously handsome professional dancer Giovanni Pernice, with the two of them apparently planning to spend Christmas together.
I bet they will both have a whole lot of fun doing the cha cha cha and the paso doble while peeling the Brussels sprouts, and true love is much more important than a trophy.
THERE have been a few candidates for my favourite movie of the year, including Deadpool 2, First Man and A Star Is Born. But one film stands head and shoulders above all of them.
The Favourite is simply outstanding. It’s bawdy, earthy, funny . . . and very moving.
It’s the story of Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs who was besotted by her scheming childhood friend Sarah Churchill (ancestor of both Winston Churchill and Princess Diana) until a scheming minx of a serving wench ousts Sarah from power to become the Queen’s “Favourite”.
There are three incredibly powerful female performances.
The ever-reliable Olivia Colman as poor Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as the ballsy Sarah and Emma Stone as sly maid Abigail. While the women wield power, the foppish men wear far too much face powder, lipstick and eyeliner, and teeter in high heels. They are a sad and sorry bunch.
Poor Queen Anne was pregnant 17 times but either miscarried, had stillbirths or her babies died in infancy. According to the movie, she kept a menagerie of 17 fluffy bunny rabbits in memory of her lost children and they had to be petted by her courtiers.
It’s both absurd yet deeply touching. Sarah and Abigail service the Queen in all sorts of ways, making sure she has enough cake and orgasms to keep her happy.
The language is ripe, the cinematography is sumptuous and the whole experience is a joy.
It’s not out officially until New Year’s Day so I suppose it doesn’t really qualify at a 2018 movie, but it’s definitely an Oscar contender and a bloody good romp.
Squat a wasted chance
I WASN’T shocked to see Jose Mourinho being given the elbow by Manchester United, but I was astounded that he lived in a hotel for more than two years instead of renting a flat or buying a house.
On his salary he could have bought up half of Manchester, but instead he chose to squat in the penthouse of the posh Lowry hotel.
While living the high life might initially sound appealing, I reckon the novelty of room service, fluffy robes and a mini bar would wear off pretty soon, even though the club were picking up his £800-a-night bill.
By all accounts the self-proclaimed “Special One” was a virtual recluse in the hotel towards the end of his time at United, just sitting in his room watching TV or talking to a handful of loyal Portuguese lieutenants.
I think it showed a reluctance to put down roots and fully commit to his role at United, and that he considered himself to be more important than the club.
I was also immune to his so-called charm and just thought he was pompous, self-important and arrogant.
Sure, you can behave like the cock of the walk when you are a manager on a winning streak, but as soon as the team starts racking up disappointing results and losses then you quickly turn into a feather duster.
Mourinho’s bitter pill of failure will be sweetened by a £25million pay-off, which is an astonishing amount of dosh to be awarded for being rubbish at your job.
Mind you, if he is still able to bounce into another lucrative gig he could easily buy his very own hotel.
KEEP your fingers crossed for me as I’m heading north from Gatwick today to see friends and family in the run-up to Christmas.
Hoping I won’t be caught up in all the drone shenanigans that have ruined thousands of festive plans.
It’s frightening that one individual with a grudge can cause such chaos and we don’t seem to be able to do anything about it.
It makes the blood run cold to think what havoc a terrorist group could have wreaked . . . and we appear to be completely and utterly helpless.
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