Christmas giving kicked off the real festive season

CHRISTMAS officially started for me last Saturday at the Trafford Centre.

No, I wasn’t joining the crowds shopping there, but carrying a bucket and collecting for a children’s charity.

Children Today, which buys individual pieces of equipment for children and young people with disabilities, annually holds a collection there – and it’s always successful.

The key is that a band accompanies our visit and plays throughout the afternoon. Scouts from the 3rd Davyhulme Scout troop and others do a fantastic job of raising shoppers’ spirits and helping the charity to raise money.

When they’re playing Stand By Your Man or You Raise Me Up and specifically when they’re playing Christmas songs, people give generously. And I do mean generously.

The whole afternoon is a remarkable exercise in the kindness of the human spirit and an antidote to those who believe that these days individuals are selfish and mean.

Our small group of charity workers was treated to giving on an industrial scale. People of all ages donated. Nicest of all, little children were sent over to us by their parents, carrying £1 coins or a handful of change which they popped into the buckets. In exchange, we gave them paper stickers from the charity.

Young men and women in groups and out for an enjoyable day at the very busy centre dropped in £2 coins and, in several cases, £5 and £10 notes. They invariably accompanied the donation with a smile and an “all the best – hope you do well today” and meant it. Older people without much disposable cash still gave, often stopping for a chat.

The amount of goodwill in the air was amazing and surprising when you consider that, just the evening before, Children in Need had raised a record £50 million. There seemed to be a hangover of kindness that made people smile and give without compunction.

Interestingly, several parents also stood watching the band with their young children and explained what the different musical instruments were. During breaks, some chatted to band members about their music-making.

The whole afternoon went quickly and in a lovely life-affirming haze. Yes, people were out in droves Christmas shopping and, yes, there’s no doubt they spent large amounts on gifts for everyone.

But, the warmth and kindness they showed to us as fundraisers was exceptional. And, for me, it really was the start of the festive season and what it is genuinely all about.