Marie Louise McConville: Summer is nearly over and the cost of Christmas is already on my mind

Visits to Santa Claus are a magical part of Christmas but shouldn't cost the earth
Marie Louise McConville

So, how are the preparations going?

With 143 days to go until Christmas I'm guessing the vast majority of you haven't given December 25 this year a second thought.

I do always try to be at least a bit prepared and I'm always on the lookout for any toy sales that might give Santa a helping hand.

That said, this week it seems to have been all about booking Santa experiences and wow, how times have changed.

When we were little, Christmas magic was created courtesy of Leisureworld in Belfast city centre.

My mum and dad would take us every year and without fail, year in year out, we were mesmerised.

Every effort was put in to making this visit to Santa all the more festive with fabulous lighting and props and great gifts - without costing parents the earth.

Unfortunately, for me there has never been a Santa visit to rival Leisureworld.

Of course, nowadays there's plenty of choice about where to take the kids - just as long as you have lots and lots of spare cash to pay for it.

This week I received a number of emails letting me know that various Santa experiences are now open for booking, from cottages and barns to trains, buses and home visits.

Anyone who knows me will know these mailers immediately ignited my excitement because I just love being organised and so I did a bit of research into each.

However within minutes, it became apparent that a visit to Father Christmas in 2018 will be seriously expensive.

The price for two children was unreal so I have no idea how a family with more than two kids can afford it.

In reality, unless we are being flown to Lapland to enjoy a reindeer sleigh ride and watch Santa parachute down the chimney from a helicopter, seeing Father Christmas shouldn't cost the earth.

I mean, £22 and upwards for a two-year-old child to see Santa - that's outrageous.

And why are parents being charged £14 and more to accompany them?

These overinflated prices do nothing but put families under increasing pressure at a time of year when we are already feeling the strain.

I think it's about time we all remembered the true meaning of Christmas and put an end to the crazy commercialisation trying to take over.


So, that's that then.

After spending the last two months engrossed in everything Love Island, suddenly, it's all over.

I became absolutely addicted to this year's show and watched it every night for the past two months - but now I'm lost.

This week, Dani and Jack lifted the Love Island crown - and the £50,000 prize money - and rightfully so.

I wish the pair every luck and love for their bright future together.

Well done to everyone involved in this year's series and I'm not ashamed to say I am already on tenterhooks for next year and look forward to more Love Island love.



The internationally famous Bluegrass Music Festival is taking place in Co Tyrone next month – so how do you fancy winning a family pass?

A perfect end to a perfect summer, the unforgettable event takes place at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh from Friday, August 31 until Sunday, September 2.

With local craft beers and food served all day, visitors can tap their toes to 14 bands across five stages at the three day event.

The 2018 line-up includes the multi award winning Bluegrass & Gospel duo Darin & Brooke Aldridge and bluegrass veterans Mike Compton and Joe Newberry.

Homegrown talent includes the Broken String Band, Northern Exposure, Geordie McAdam and The Henrys.

Further information about the event is available online at

I have one family pass for Saturday, September 2 at the Bluegrass Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh to give away to one lucky reader.

For the chance to win a pass, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to

Closing date for entries is 12 noon on Tuesday, August 7, 2018

(Q) Where does the Bluegrass Music Festival take place?

Normal Irish News Rules Apply


The winners of the Streamvale competition are Jennifer Mason from Strangford and Mary O'Hare from Belfast.

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