Suzanne McGonagle: Going into last minute Christmas panic buying mode

Are an early bird or last-minute shopper?

EVERY year I'm determined to do my Christmas shopping well in advance and every year the same thing happens.

By around October time, I say it's going to be different this Christmas, and begin to do a few online shopping bursts for festive gifts.

With five family birthdays to contend with over the two weeks prior to December 25, my aim is always to find out what everyone really wants, get my orders done online several weeks in advance, then sit back sipping mulled wine beside an open fire and relaxing.

And this year - just like every other - here I am with just over a week to go and I'm still far from reaching for that glass of festive tipple.

Once again, I've let the Christmas to-do list fester in the back of my mind, putting it off to the next day and the next and so forth - all the way to the eleventh hour and beyond.

There are people out there who are gift-giving pros - the supremely organised, somewhat smug 'done it all by November' specialists who plan their list and shopping trips for months, make their purchases and wrap everything up by December 1.

There are others who wait for the sales to begin to make sure they get good discounts and still get the gifts under the tree in plenty of time.

And then there are those adrenalin infused last-minute dashers who take full advantage of the fact that some retailers will be open until 5pm on December 24.

People like me, who wait with their heads in the sand and then rush around the stores panic-buying at the last minute to get their gifts.

Every year it usually ends up the same way - overspending like a maniac with the hope that if I spend enough on everyone they won't actually notice that the only thought that went into purchasing the gift was: "How quickly can I get this done?"

While we all have plenty of reasons to do our shopping at the very last minute, whether it's too hard decide on what to get, avoiding duplicate gifts, or making sure the presents are not discovered ahead of time - it all becomes a blur the closer we get to Christmas Eve.

And while I will join millions of shoppers this weekend descending on the high street as the scramble to finish my Christmas shopping continues, there is some good news on the horizon.

For research has shown we shouldn't panic if we are less of an ultra-considerate gift-giver and more of a last-minute shopper.

Apparently it's not all bad for those of use who choose to frantically buy our Christmas gifts at the last-minute.

A study has revealed that being extremely thoughtful about your gift-giving could be detrimental when it comes to choosing presents that the recipients will actually enjoy.

The research suggests that thoughtfulness, which is supposed to be at the heart of Christmas shopping, can actually trip you up.

Experts claim that over-thinking can lead to a person choosing gifts that represent their own ideas of their recipients, rather than what the gift-receiver would actually want.

The concept, which is called 'over-individuation', suggests that last-minute shoppers, pressed for time, are more likely to avoid these mistakes.

Basically, if you have less time to think about a present, you could strike lucky, right?

So to all those people who are sitting next to their Christmas tree surrounded by their carefully thought-out presents, perhaps you should rethink some of those gifts purchased three months ago?

Next year, though, I will try to do it differently, I will try to remember that old saying - failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

But in reality, I will still be in town on Christmas Eve with my melted credit card.

And to all of you who haven't finished your Christmas shopping yet - stop reading this and get it done.



The SSE Arena, Belfast is being transformed into a winter wonderland complete with ice rink.

For the ultimate festive family day out, Winter Skate allows keen skaters to take to the ice and practice twirls and twists while parents can hire little bobby seals to help tiny beginners build up their confidence.

The special ice rink at the SSE Arena runs from December 22 to January 2.

A special seasonal offer has been introduced for families - they can take in a two hour skating session plus a Belfast Giants game (on December 29, 30 or January 2) and a visit to W5 for just £59 for a family of four.

A 90 minute ice skating session costs just £8. Group discount will be applied for groups of 10 or more, priced at just £5.50 each.

Tickets are now on sale through the SSE Box Office, or call 028 9073 9074.

I have a family pass (two adults and two children under 12 years) to give away for the SSE Winter Skate on December 31 at 4pm. To be in with a chance to win, simply email your name, address and telephone number - along with the answer to the question below - to

Closing date for entries is Tuesday December 20 at noon.

(Q) What date does the SSE Winter Skate start?

Normal Irish News Rules Apply


What's Hot!

Santa's Grotto - Hillmount Garden Centre in the Castlereagh Hills of east Belfast have yet again a wonderful Santa's grotto for children. Kids can explore the grotto with live reindeer, pygmy goats, donkeys and a present from Father Christmas himself. You can also bring your pet to see Santa on December 24 from 10am to 4pm. Please visit

Inns Market - Experience the sounds, smells and tastes of Christmas and champion local produce at the Inns Market in south Belfast tomorrow. Packed full of festive food including Made with Love's hand crafted chutneys, jams and relishes, Mike's Fancy Cheese selection of raw milk Irish cheese and Buchanan's Turkey's. The market is the rear car park of The Inns shops, Saintfield Road from 10am to 2pm. For information, visit

What's Not!

No memory - Emmerdale actor Adam Thomas has revealed he was so drunk during an interview on This Morning that he doesn't remember it. He said he had always wanted to be on the show but his memory was hazy as the chat happened halfway through the 'I'm A Celebrity' after-show party.

Seriously - Former X Factor contestant Honey G has been signed by Simon Cowell's record label, Syco. The controversial rapper - who was considered by many to be the novelty act of the series - said she is releasing her first single later this month and suggested that an album will follow.


Competition winners

The winner of last week's Movie House Cinema family pass is Ernie Thompson from Belfast.


Easy Peasy Recipe

This week's Easy Peasy Recipe is Christmas Pudding Ice Cream, courtesy of Asda. For further information, please visit

You will need:

50g sultanas

100g dried cranberries

150g Buchanan's glace cherries quartered

150g ready to eat dried apricots, cut into pieces the size of a sultana

6 tbsp Cointreau

100g pistachio nuts

150g Asda Dark Chocolate

3 large Cavanagh eggs, separated

75g icing sugar

300ml double cream

To make:

Put the sultanas, cranberries, glace cherries, apricots and Cointreau in a bowl and cover with cling film.

Soak for 1-3 days.

Line 10 ramekins with a double layer of cling film.

Chop the nuts.

Break the chocolate into squares and melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Don't let the bowl touch the water. Remove the bowl.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff.

Gradually whisk in the sugar, 1 level tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each.

In another bowl, whip the cream until it holds its shape.

Beat the yolks with a fork to break them up.

Fold the fruit and soaking liquid, nuts, melted chocolate and yolks into the cream, using a large metal spoon.

Gently fold in the whites, turn into the ramekins and cover.

Freeze for at least 4 hours.

Do you have an Easy Peasy recipe you would like to share?

Are you the queen of quiches, magnificent at muffins or can you turn out some nice scones?

If so, then we want to hear from you.

You can send your name, address, contact number and recipe (plus photo if possible) to:

Easy Peasy Recipes,

Suzanne McGonagle,

Irish News

113-117 Donegall Street,





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