Back when we had a houseful of children, Christmas gift-giving was big. The thing I loved most, to my surprise, was the stockings. We held to the old-fashioned notion that parents gave the major presents, while Father Christmas left a footy sock full of little goodies.

How I loved to fill those grimy, out-of-shape socks! An orange at the toe, of course. Chocolate coins covered in gold foil were de rigueur. There were minor stationery items – novelty pens and erasers and dinky paper clips and post-it notes. As they got older, we included knickers, socks, soap, deodorant, spray-on Lynx when the boys were in their teens.

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One of my favourite moments each year was when all four of them piled onto our bed, extricating their treasures from the stocking, item by item, child by child, feigning surprise at each modest and utterly predictable discovery. When they hit adulthood and left home and I called a halt to the practice, there were howls of outrage.

The last few years, we have simplified things enormously by going the Kris Kringle route. And it’s bliss. Christmas prep has become almost stress-free. Some of us are cash-strapped, none of us needs more stuff in our lives. We are all weary at year’s end. All we want is to be together. Result? These days I am not any kind of Christmas shopper. I just sit back and rejoice that I don’t have to worry about it.



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