The Christmas Fete: A Parents’ Survival Guide

I need to preface this by saying that the ladies who run the PTA at my children’s school are absolutely fabulous. The Winter Wonderland fete is brilliantly run, the kids love it and it must take a huge amount of effort, both to set the thing up and to look happy and enthusiastic as they do it. We love you!

However, having just attended for the fifth year, I feel I am now in a position to give parents visiting their first school Christmas fete a few words of friendly advice.

Like Vegas, you should only go out with the money you are willing to lose. It doesn’t matter how many times you say when it’s gone, it’s gone, your children will bleed you dry of every last penny in your possession. You won’t be alone. Around the hall you will hear repeated refrains of that is the LAST one and you are not getting ANY more and I have NO MORE money. But they can smell a lie. They know you have an emergency fiver tucked into your mobile case and they will get it.

This is not the time to teach your children a healthy attitude to finance. My six year old likes to do a tour of the entire room and appraise every stall before she decides where to spend her money. (It’s her paternal genes: Husband also researches every purchase for weeks before deciding that he doesn’t really need it anyway.) Whilst this is healthy consumer behaviour and should be fostered, at 3.30pm on a Friday, in a room packed with harassed parents and their hyperactive progeny, you just want her to throw her money around as quickly as possible and get the heck out.

The one advantage of her slow searching stroll around the room is that you can earmark the stalls you want to promote. As a parent, your main objective is to get out of the place with as little plastic crap as you can. Therefore you should encourage the stalls where they can win sweets because sweets can be consumed – by them or you – unlike the plastic flashing wand which will end up in the drawer with all the other tat they never play with but refuse to be parted from. Which brings me to the Teddy Tombola…

If you are very lucky, the Teddy Tombola stall will be hidden in a corner somewhere and you will be able to position yourself so that your child will not be able to see the myriad of mournful soft toys as you guide them safely to the hoopla stall. (They never win at the hoopla: it’s a safe bet.) Because the Teddy Tombola hides a sinister secret. Everyone wins. Yes, you heard that right. For a mere pound, you gleeful child will definitely win one of the teddies that you probably donated under cover of darkness to be rid of them forever. If not you, then one of the other parents in the room. If you can’t avoid it, all you can do is pray that they win one of the smaller ones. You can smell the relief rippling around you as some poor soul wins the six foot teddy bear and has to wrestle it from the room. (Chances are, you can find its previous owner celebrating by buying everyone in the vicinity a round of mulled wine and a reindeer-shaped shortbread biscuit.)

Finally, a word of encouragement. Like a tequila shot, the Christmas Fete is intense but quick. Before you know it, the fete is over and you are taking your children home, jacked up on Moams and chocolate fountain and – despite the hustle, bustle and the fact you are now the proud owner of a three-foot pink rabbit – you are starting to feel more than a little bit Christmassy.

Thanks you PTA volunteers everywhere x


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