By Tyla Harrington

CHRISTMAS HAS BEEN, and always will be, the most wonderful time of the year for me.

I'm not sure what or who (probably Santa) sparked my festive spirit back when I was no bigger than your average size elf, but I am most likely the world's biggest fan of Christmas.

Ok, so, maybe it had something to do with the presents including all those cuddly toy dogs (I'm still waiting on the real one Santa) I was gifted year after year.

Or maybe it was the food or the fact family always came together/comes together.

It might have even been Rudolph and his cute little red nose or the excitement I had when it was time for my grandparents to take me and my brother to look at the Christmas lights around Echuca-Moama.

Whatever it was, for as long as I can remember, December 25 has been marked with a big red marker on my annual calendar.

It's not to be missed.

Not that that could even be in the realms of possibility because my advent calendar and I will count down the days until Santa arrives every year without fail.

It's a tradition.

I love carols, I love family, I love giving gifts and receiving them and I love food.

I love that time of year when the tree comes out, the decorations get hung and everyone (mostly me) starts walking with that extra bounce.

Of course there will be people you come across while you're skipping down the street or singing around the office who absolutely hate the word that starts with Christ and ends in mas (no Vivienne Duck, I didn't mention you) but not even the Grinch himself could steal it from me.

The only thing I can say I struggle with is buying gifts earlier than December 24, give or take December 23 and 22.

I am an organised person but in the hype of Christmas I sometimes leave the gifts until the last minute.

All but guaranteeing I shop local — and that I must modestly applaud and encourage.

Shopping local is paramount and there are so many businesses in our region there is no reason why the stocking can't be filled right here at home.

So instead of leaving town this Christmas to buy the perfect gift for a loved one, get it on your own doorstep.

You never know what you might find.

And you never know what that support could mean for a local business.

After all, Santa sees you when you're sleeping and he knows when you're awake.

He knows if you're shopping local (or not), so be good for goodness sake.

Merry Christmas to all our Bella and Beau readers and a Happy New Year (also another favourite of mine but that's a story for another day and another magazine).

And don't forget to check out the latest deals at businesses near you in the pages of this month's Bella and Beau.

Editor Tyla Harrington.