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No we won’t be buying a £3.99 Santa suit from Amazon!

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Well its been a long time since we wrote a blog – anyone would think we have been plunged headlong into the busiest (and most wonderful) time of the year. The run up to Christmas for us means lots of sourcing the best Fair Trade gifts from our BAFTS colleagues, the very important Christmas shop window and Newcastle Emlyn Victorian night. But it is when things are at their busiest that it becomes easy to put your principles to one side for the sake of speed and convenience.

Which brings us to the thorny issue of the Santa suit. As part of the Newcastle Emlyn Trader’s Group, we had been organising a Christmas warm-up weekend,  to encourage people to visit Newcastle Emlyn. One of the main events for the weekend was a Santa Spinathon to raise money for Cylch Meithrin Drefach Felindre, the alma mater of our very own Managing Director. So somehow we ended up roped in to a 30min slot on the spin bike each. Of course, some sort of festive outfit was required for this and enquiries as to the best place to get one produced the £1.99 response. And however rushed we felt, this was not an option that sat comfortably with us!

Luckily a quick internet search showed us that our friends at Fair Trade Wales had just the thing we needed – a  sustainable Santa suit made from Fair Trade, recycled and local materials. One phone call later and the suit was on its way in the post. And what a truly wonderful thing it was – gorgeous upcycled felt and Fair Trade cotton, with a huge wool collar made from local Welsh sheep and a recycled tyre belt.

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It was a just a little bit toasty for riding a spin bike in – I think Jill got the better deal wearing it to keep warm for the Christmas light switch on ceremony!

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So, one fancy dress challenge down, two to go. Next was our Managing Director’s school play. She was playing an angel – typecast as ever -and the temptation was there to just buy an outfit to save time and hassle. But a Christmas angel suit that could have been made using child labour? Not an option! Instead a beautiful Fair Trade dress from Su Su Ma Ma was complemented by a halo made from fur from Santa’s boots when he got stuck in our ceiling a few years ago, wrapped in sparkly wool from our local fabric shop. And I made the amazing wings from paper plates and white crepe paper left over from our Eistedffod shop window. Volia – one Fair Trade, local and recycled angel ready to flutter with the best of them!

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Only Victorian Night to get through then. This is an epic fancy dress occasion and requires lots of time and planning. Or failing that, you can knock something up in a day at a push! Here once again we relied on recycling of old costumes in conjunction with a good old trawl of the local charity shops. Our theme this year was Oliver Twist. I bought a second hand vintage red dress for Nancy’s costume, which went with a black shawl originally knitted by my mum and Jill made a scarily convincing Bill Sykes with her charity shop buys, draw on sideburns and pull-along dog that belonged to her children when they were small.

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There was a small disaster when she decided to spray a hat black to save time and nearly gassed us, the shop and some unsuspecting customers with the smell of the fumes. And almost a large disaster when she tried to burn a Fair Trade incense stick in the brim on the now highly flammable hat to get rid of the smell, but luckily she had a back-up hat and disaster was averted!

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The Artful Dodger costume was a reused Willy Wonka outfit from Roald Dahl Day at school. And Fagin was wearing a friend’s dressing gown that had previously done a turn as the ghost of Christmas present, Bob Cratchit’s waistcoat and a charity shop hat expertly hacked about to fit on his head. We came a very close second in the best dressed establishment award and hopefully made a point about the contrast between rich and poor in Dickensian Britain and how many of his words still hold true to the present day.

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So it is possible, even at the most hectic of times, to make better choices in your buying. That goes for presents, decorations, Christmas food treats as well as the all important issue of dressing-up and making a fool of yourself!

Bleak, dark, and piercing cold, it was a night for the well-housed and fed to draw round the bright fire, and thank God they were at home; and for the homeless starving wretch to lay him down and die. Many hunger-worn outcasts close their eyes in our bare streets at such times, who, let their crimes have been what they may, can hardly open them in a more bitter world.”
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist