This morning, I saw Daughter off for her last day at school. It was tough. Her energy levels were at rock bottom and she was seriously lacking in Christmas spirit, in spite of a fabulously festive jumper (mine, natch).

On breakfast TV, children’s commissioner Rachel da Souza was discussing the uptick in parents being fined for taking offspring out of school for cheap term-time holidays, and how keeping your kids at home without good reason was an imprisonable offence.

Daughter said this was fine with her, and that she would visit me in HMP Exeter, where I would be top dog thanks to my indomitable temper.

We have reached that stage in the season where we are going through the motions of Christmas traditions that are obligatory if you don’t want to be labelled a Scrooge/Grinch/party-pooper.

Yesterday, a freelance colleague and I headed over the border for a Christmas lunch with some utterly lovely people. The highlight of the occasion was a Secret Santa. The rules: maximum spend £5, bear allergies in mind if baking something.

As the Cornwall contingent, said colleague and I turned to lovely local businesses, buying soap from St Ives, and strawberry jam enhanced with Tarquin’s Gin.

It became quickly evident that everyone else had supplied delectable homebakes, many immaculately wrapped in brown paper, ribbon and garden foliage (in contrast with my own hastily found preloved gift bag, firmly sealed with teeth-torn Sellotape).

To compound our embarrassment, the “Secret” part of the deal was blown when each person had to guess who had bought, sorry baked, their gift.

At least our gifts were more than half-decent. I had toyed with the idea of buying a trio of Vaseline lip balms in decorative tin from Boots, which came in at just the right price. These would have thrilled Daughter no end, but might have driven me under the table in all-time Secret Santa shame.

As it was, my friend and I cowered in the corner until our recipients opened their presents and made the appropriate “Mmmmm” or “Yum” noises that our generosity and thoughtfulness deserved.

That evening, I made a second attempt at our Christmas card list. A recent poll by John Lewis revealed a decline in this particular ritual, with many people deterred by the price of postage stamps.

I think it more likely they are put off by the sheer tedium of writing “Merry Christmas, lots of love” to folk they haven’t seen since university days.

What are their kids called again? (Answer: “…and family”). Do they still live in Acacia Avenue? Which of the three addresses in my book is the correct one? Are they (whisper it) still alive?

I like to hear what people are up to, but I know myself that there really isn’t time to write letters to everyone on the list.

There’s always the round-robin, I suppose, but they are rather impersonal and the precursor to the edited showreels we complain about on social media.

Every year, I hear a thud on my doormat and I know it’s a three-page print-out from an old friend, complete with photos. I’m ashamed to admit I fume about how perfect their life is and, crucially, how they rarely bother to ask how I’m doing. (It arrived today - no change).

In contrast, last year, another friend said: “I wish we lived closer so we could catch up properly.” I wholeheartedly concurred with this sentiment, and I made sure to include my phone number so we can at least chat from a distance.

A few years back – OK, a couple of decades – I visited my local sorting office at Christmas to write a feature for a county magazine. It was an eye-opener, and to this day, when addressing my cards, I try to bear in mind the lessons I learned.

1. Print addresses in clear handwriting. If you’re not sure, put in a call to check they are still valid.

2. The postcode is king, so don’t guess or leave it off – double-check it and get it right. It could make all the difference between your card ending up in Truro, Taunton or Telford.

3. Use the correct postage. Large letters have cost more to send since – get this – 2006. Last month, my birthday card from my mother arrived three weeks late. She blamed a kerfuffle caused by a banned customer trying to kick the post office door down (welcome to my hood). A card through my letterbox demanding £1.50 to release her underpaid, oversized missive told a different story.

4. Sending a nice little something with your card? It will be making quite a journey, so wrap it properly, with padding if required, and stick it down well.

5. Keep your hand-delivered post well separate from your stamped envelopes. Royal Mail employees do their best, but even they might struggle to find your special “Cyril and Cynthia” without proper coordinates.

6. Deadlines, deadlines. If you’re reading this online, second-class post goes Monday, first-class on Tuesday. Reading it in print? Sorry – you’re too late, but feel free to take your chances.

Finally, to one and all: I do love Christmas, really.

Nadelik Lowen, Merry Christmas - see you on the other side!