This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au It was Christmas Eve and the trap was set: three empty cans tied together and, with the aid of a chair, placed atop the door. When the big fellow arrived, he'd have to use the door as there was no chimney. The cans would fall, make a racket, and this six year old would catch Santa in the act. Of course, it didn't turn out that way. The cans fell, mother shrieked, there was no Santa. The slow erosion of childhood innocence was set in motion. Down they went like dominoes: the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy and Wee Willie Winkie. Christmas would never be quite the same. And the ambush all those years ago has been repaid many times over. Despite falling on the same date every year, Christmas always seems to creep up like a stealthy ghost and catch me unawares and unprepared. In my study, there's a drawerful of unfulfilled New Year resolutions about being more organised for the festive season. Bewildered and lost amidst the throngs of other last-minute shoppers, I find myself loading up with gifts. Many of them are so-called stocking fillers, which will be forgotten by February and end up in landfill by April. Then, back at the car, as other motorists hungrily eye my spot as I pile the junk into the boot, I realise with mute horror I've forgotten someone. 'Tis the season to be anxious. There's worry over the Christmas lunch. Will there be enough to eat and drink? Will the turkey be too dry? How can we stop the border collie - a master of counter-insurgency - from jumping up on the kitchen bench and making off with the salmon while we prepare the salad? All this swirls around the head in the dead of night for most of December as the inner Grinch does battle with the better self. All this is not surprising - this one day of the year is a big deal. And it's getting bigger by the year. Even with higher interest rates and rising prices, Australians are expected to spend about $64 billion on pre-Christmas sales, more than enough to cover the most dire forecasts of the NDIS bill. It must be deflating for Philip Lowe at the Reserve Bank, who's doing his level best to rein in spending by whacking up interest rates. Not everyone will be spending up big. A survey of 1000 people conducted by Compare the Market found 40 per cent would be spending less this Christmas. Another survey by Advanis found 8 per cent were actually dreading Christmas because they couldn't afford it. The haves will have more, the have-nots less. Meanwhile, our food waste over the festive season will spike by about 30 per cent. After four days, we'll swear off ever having another ham sandwich but will be back next year enduring the same thing. We'll use and throw out about 150,000km of wrapping paper and $400 million worth of those gifts we rushed to buy will be unwanted. Don't get me wrong. Once it's over and you lapse into post-feast narcolepsy, Christmas is wonderful. Back to my late mother, startled all these years ago in the Santa ambush. She once told me off for grizzling about not getting the same shiny presents as the neighbourhood kids - the Dragstar bikes, the Test Match board games, the Scalextric sets. We weren't badly off but household budgets were geared towards experiences rather than things - travel, a hobby farm, horses and a menagerie of other animals, including a mischievous galah called Fred and his sidekick Hector, a loud and fractious cockatoo. "Those other children," she said, "will forget their bikes, their games and their toys. But your memories will be with you forever." And, of course, she was right. HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you prepare for Christmas early? Or are you a last-minute person? Are you planning on spending up big this year? Or are you reining it in? What's your favourite Christmas memory? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too. IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: - Flooding through the country has caused delays in the fruit and vegetable supply chain that are expected to stretch into the Christmas period. Melbourne restaurant Lee Ho Fook chef Victor Liong is already noticing shortages in locally sourced vegetables. Mr Liong said, "anything that's leafy or green, all the colourful broccoli, the weird kinds of cauliflowers. You think they'd be hardy but they take a lot of time to grow and being flooded rocked them." - The supply of Christmas goods won't be disrupted at Australian ports following a breakthrough in the industrial tribunal. The Fair Work Commission has ordered a major tugboat operator to suspend its planned lockout of workers from ports across the country for six months. The commission's full bench ruled a lockout by Danish-owned Svitzer would cause significant damage to the national economy and "endanger the welfare of the Australian population or part of it". - COVID-19 cases are soaring across Australia as another wave of the virus prompts authorities to appeal for public help in stemming infections. Cases in the nation's three most populous states have more than doubled in the space of two weeks, although the number of serious infections remains low. NSW, Victoria and Queensland reported 58,373 new infections on Friday, up from 42,264 the previous week and 27,103 two weeks ago. Health authorities in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and the ACT are asking people to return to wearing masks in public indoor areas and on public transport, although they have stopped short of reintroducing mandates. THEY SAID IT: "Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store." - Dr Seuss YOU SAID IT: The euthanasia laws and the difficulty of accessing voluntary assisted dying in regional and remote Australia. Dave says: "Modern medicine is keeping us alive for longer. When we can't talk, move or do anything that indicates we are more than just physically alive, then it is time we have (or our trusted loved ones have) the choice to end a good life." "I support our euthanasia laws," says Anna. "And I also appreciate how tough it would for an unwell person in regional areas trying to get through the hurdles. But at least the legislation was passed, and hopefully with demonstrated experiences it will be suitably amended. I know from my experiences working in nursing homes and having to deal with dysfunctional families and the ugly, greedy side of human nature, how exploitative this matter could be. The hurdles have been put there in an effort to curtail unscrupulous relatives and/or hopeful beneficiaries of the ill person's estate." Kate says: "My father belonged to the Dying with Dignity group. He died in agony of cancer in 2013. The doctor was very concerned for the two weeks before his death that he didn't get addicted to morphine. Dad would often ask for his big red button." Christine agrees with Garry: "I have been saying for ages that if we let our dogs suffer like we make so many sick and elderly people suffer, we would be fined for cruelty." Likewise Jo-Anne: "After the passing of my dad recently who had advanced dementia and a host of other issues including leukemia, heart and lung issues and kidney failure, I would much rather be one of my dogs. They were cared for until there was no more to be done (regardless of the cost) and put to sleep quickly and peacefully. They did not have to suffer like my father. My goal now is working out ways that I can take control of how my life ends and not let the government or God decide. One life, one death, all mine."