The festive season is upon us and we’re embracing it with gusto; the cards have been posted, the decorations are up, and the streets are crammed with Christmas shoppers. For many, December 25 is not just a family celebration, it is the finish line in a triathlon of tinsel strewing, gift wrapping and turkey stuffing. This time of year can be chaotic as we plan, bake and shop for the big day. However, before we become completely consumed by our shopping lists, it’s worth taking a minute to remember what the holiday season is really about.

The tradition of giving can mean so much more than expensive presents and piles of torn wrapping paper. We can ‘give’ in many other ways; whether that means opening our homes to lonely relatives, helping out a charity or just spending some time with those in need. Time is at a premium over the festive period and is therefore the most valuable gift one can give. This is why I prefer to visit the kitchen for my ‘Christmas shopping’. Making presents myself is cost-effective and adds heartfelt meaning to a simple exchange. A hand-knitted scarf or a batch of cookies are not only wonderful items to receive, but they say, “I care” in the cosiest and kindest of ways.

If you find yourself with a free evening why not whip up something that’ll warm the hearts of your friends and family? Bake a batch or two of crunchy gingerbread cookies and get the kids to help you ice them. Bag them up and tie with pretty, handmade gift-tags. For something more sophisticated try some caramel-spiced almonds or a simple cinnamon-infused maple syrup. The time-poor could have a go at making some Homemade Vanilla Sugar (featured). Time spent in the kitchen is a wonderful way to indulge in the magic of the season; simply put the radio on, make a cup of tea and absorb the scents and sounds of Christmas baking. I can assure you that your loved ones will be touched by your efforts and delighted with their unique treats.

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