December 1st, it means only one thing, the start of Christmas preparations. As the festive season kicks off, so do all the bells and whistles that come with it.

When should we put up the tree? Whose family will we have dinner with? What do I wear to the Christmas party? And, the most pressing question: What gifts will I buy people?

It is easy to get caught up in the material madness of Christmas, figuratively tearing our hair out looking for the perfect presents and loose sight what we are actually trying to do, acknowledge and thank the family and friends we love.

This Christmas we are reminding people to also pay tribute to the place they live, by shopping locally. Many people are surprised by the amount of their Christmas shopping that can be done at local retail outlets and the value they can get there.

It is no big secret that supporting local business is key to sustaining economic growth in smaller communities. Recent figures released by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association (ISME) show that every €10 spent locally on Irish products generates €24 to benefit the community.

People in all corners of our localities are selling innovative Christmas gifts that may never have even crossed our minds. So get out there, browse through the Christmas markets, root through the Aladdin’s caves that are craft shops or order a voucher from your local driving instructor.

You will not only experience the unique Christmas atmosphere in your local community, you will be a part of it. Merry Christmas!