For me, the build up to Christmas is actually more enjoyable that the main event. My eldest daughter is four years old now so she is a perfect age for all of the magic of Father Christmas.

It’s not just magic for her either; it is the first year that I have realised the power that the ‘naughty list’ holds! It is a brilliant weapon in my arsenal “Santa is watching!” I seem to utter every second sentence.

Some of my friends have taken it even further. One has a little Christmas elf which appeared in their house around the same time as the advent calendars. This little elf is Santa’s helper and he lives in the house to keep an eye on the children.

Each morning the kids wake up and have to search for him as he will have moved during the night; sometimes he’s on a shelf, sometimes perched on the cistern; either way he’s there to monitor behaviour. Genius I think! We will be getting a similar visitor next year.

Another friend has taken it further. Sick and tired of tantrums when out and about she has convinced her child that CCTV cameras are Santa’s eye in the sky! She even sweet-talked a security guard into letting her son have a peek at the bank of monitors which “feed the pictures back to Santa” Brilliant!

It can be a very expensive time of year, not only with all the gifts, food and drink to buy but also with the ancillary bits and pieces. The visits to Santa, the school holidays to fill, the trips out and about.

There are still plenty of things that you can do without breaking the bank. Horticap on Otley Road is lovely at this time of year. It is a local charity which supports disabled adults, and every year they sell Christmas trees and gifts to raise money.

I mentioned the garden there earlier in the year but at Christmas they have a nature walk, and hidden here is a shed with a sleeping Santa in it. You can peak through the window and see a snoring Santa tucked up in bed, surrounded by presents, a pot of tea and a roaring fire. It is a very sweet trip out and there is no entry fee. It seems to have the spirit of Christmas at its heart. It’s not commercial, everyone is really friendly and they have Christmas trees, wreathes, potted plants and lots of artisan crafts in their gift shop.

Christmas is also a time when many people want a bit of an escape from the commercialism and nothing does that like a nativity or Christingle service. There are plenty of them around our region and they are usually listed on the church notice boards.

Whatever you get up to this festive season, I wish you all a very merry Christmas. I hope it is filled with family, friends and fun!

What’s on?

Saturday, December 22 and Sunday, December 23

11.30am Santa’s grotto at Brimham Rocks, visit Santa in the visitor centre. Suitable for ages four to 10 years. Booking is essential, telephone 01423 780688. £4 per child includes a gift.

12-3pm Friends of Valley Gardens has a visit from Santa to in his Grotto at the Old Magnesia Well Pump Room in Valley Gardens, Harrogate.

10am – 4pm The Magic of Christmas at Harlow Carr. A magical series of events for all the family. Children can decorate their own gingerbread man (11am to 3pm), write and post a letter to Santa (10am to 4pm) and spot hidden presents around the gardens

11am-2.30pm Santa’s Grotto at Ripley Castle. Bring your children this festive season to meet Santa in his cosy Workshop Grotto at Ripley Castle. Timed tickets from 11am-12.30pm and 1-2.30pm. To book telephone 01423 770152 (EX 233) or call in at the Castle Gift Shop.

Sunday, December 23

10.45am All Age Nativity Service, St Andrew’s Starbeck, shepherds, angels and wise men welcome!

Monday, December 24

4pm Journey to Bethlehem, Christ Church Harrogate. A crib service for all the family. Dress as your favourite character from the Christmas story and come on a journey to Bethlehem.

6pm Knaresborough open-air Nativity at Knaresborough market place. Annual open-air Nativity, featuring real donkeys and a live band. (Lasts approx. 45 minutes). Free entry.

3.30pm and repeated at 5pm The Gift. St Mark’s Harrogate Children are invited to come dressed up as a Nativity character.

4pm and repeated at 6pm Christingle Service at St Andrew’s Starbeck

Christmas Day

10am All Age Communion at St Mark’s Harrogate.