THE hype seems to start earlier every year.

This year the Hallowe'en paraphernalia had barely been packed away when that big, fat, bearded guy in the red suit started springing up here, there and everywhere.

Television ads are suddenly dominated by all things festive as the big stores try to outdo one another in the sickly-sweet sentimentality stakes – with John Lewis taking the winner's crown this year.

Starbucks had broken out the red cups just as the sky was lighting up with its beautiful array of fireworks for Bonfire Night.

Child Number One bounded off the school bus, thrilled to within an inch of her life last week, declaring that Christmas "is on Tuesday."

"Yes, sweetheart, six weeks on Tuesday."

And when you're five, weeks are like dog years.

For those of us who go by monthly wage checks, there are only two more to go, which is perhaps the unwelcome kind of countdown that you need to induce a cold sweat as you check the ever-growing list of presents still to buy.

Still, for those of us who fall into the 'bah, humbug!' category (it's November!) there is always a silver lining; the glorious myth of Santa.

He's the secret weapon of parents up and down the country; the guy who knows of all things naughty and all things nice and who gives black marks and gold stars all year round, really comes into his own at this time of year when you want to cow the weans into silence.

He is the ultimate in inducing well-mannered, eat-your-dinner, go-to-sleep, be-nice-to-your-brother and please-don't-break-the -TV-again behaviour.

There is the added bonus that Child Number Two, who knows no fear when it comes to heights, physical danger or picking fights with those a head and shoulder taller, clings like a terrified monkey to his Mum whenever anyone appears in fancy dress.

Santa, with his toys and reindeers and fancy promises, is no exception.

'Ah, Santa, there you are,' is the first thing we've managed to find that has Number Two doing as he's bid.

It's been quite a find so, cheers for that one, Santa.

For Number One, whose present list appears to grow daily and in direct proportion to TV viewing, a quick phone call to Greenland has the most remarkable power.

So, the myth will be perpetuated long, long into the coming years.

Only problem is, what will we do to quieten them come January?