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Beyond belief

I'm knackered. It's been a back- breaking term: we've had a visit from the inspectors, mock exams, book trawls and management shake-ups. And, now we're at our weakest, Christmas is at our throats.

I think I'm over Christmas. When my kids were little, it felt different. Their faces would light up if I gave them a sock stuffed with satsumas, but now I could spend #163;1,000 and they'd still look underwhelmed. And they're not shy of letting me know.

The first thing they do when I hand them their gifts is to ask if I have the receipts. That's a bigger vote of no confidence than your husband tipping your lovingly created turkey soup straight into the dog's bowl.

In my children's defence, we do have conflicting ideas about the best place to shop for presents. They want them white and shiny from the Apple Store; I prefer them white and shiny from Catalogue Clearance.

My daughter is the only one who pretends to like what I buy. Each year, she puts in an Oscar-winning performance: her insistence that "They're just what I wanted" as she stares at a pair of thrice-reduced slippers is enough to break my heart.

So this year I'm skipping the sorry charade and handing out some cash.

Surely Christmas doesn't have to be this shallow. With all the retro stuff going on - ballroom dancing, home-made pies, children living in Victorian destitution - we could garner support for a more old-fashioned celebration.

Yuletide's the one for me. What could be better than spending the winter solstice drinking ale, lighting fires, sacrificing beasts and smearing yourself with blood? It's got to be more exhilarating than queuing up for a frozen turkey crown. Modern Christmas has got a bit lost. "Happy Holidays" is all that we're left with after the conglomerates have had their way.

It wasn't perfect in my youth: everything closed at 2pm on Christmas Eve and didn't open again until Easter. And if you didn't like choirs singing carols or Leslie Crowther visiting children's wards, there was nothing on the telly. But at least it had a good heart.

I could eschew the pagan approach and get stuck in at church like when I was a kid. But God's easier when you're young: children can discard their disbelief like old tissues when they see something they want to believe in. I still have a Polaroid of 13-year-old me with my thighs bursting out of my hot pants like two prime sausages. Compared with the leap of faith needed to wear those shorts in public, believing in God was a doddle.

But since then that fear of appearing ridiculous has tested my belief. I hope this will change. Instead of binge-worshipping Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, I could fill the spiritual void in my life by giving Little Lord Jesus another try. He offers a better shot at eternal life, and he won't run out of discs on Saturday night and leave me alone in the dark.

Beverley Briggs is a secondary school teacher from County Durham, England.

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