Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The stockings were hung...



WARNING! If there are any children looking over your shoulder as you read this, you’d better move because they may discover SECRETS to do with CHRISTMAS that they are too young to be party to.

This week I’ve been putting together Christmas stockings for my daughters.

(I know – this is supposed to be a blog about books – but bear with me, the book is coming.)

I love Christmas stockings, my husband loves Christmas stockings and my daughters love them so much that this year, because we’re going to be away for Christmas, they’ve agreed that Christmas stockings are all they’re going to get from us (well, there are airfares, but they’re invisible). Not that that stocking are such a little – by the time you’ve bought a bit of this and that and remembered the book from the Christmas Book Fairy (that doesn’t actually fit in the stocking but is part of it) and the item of clothing that comes from the Christmas Clothes Fairy (ditto), it all adds up.

Now all families have traditions associated with family celebrations – some that are familiar to other people and some all their own. In our family, each girl’s Christmas stocking is a hand-knitted sock, much too big and baggy after years of being stuffed with stuff to fit any human leg, and decorated years ago (by me) with tinsel and initials in silver stars. Every year, among the surprises, some items never change. In the toe, the last thing to be taken out is a £2 coin (though perhaps not this year since we will be in France). On top of that, there’s a satsuma or an apple for the one who won’t eat oranges (one year it was a sponge shaped like an apple because the real apple generally goes straight back in the fruit bowl anyway). There are nuts (the kind with shells – who knows why, they haven’t got a nutcracker in the bedroom and those go back in the bowl too) and sweets (because starting the day with a tummyful of sweets is an essential Christmas tradition). There will also be knickers and socks and toiletries, and in the past few years eyeliner and mascara, because, you know, these things cost money and get used up. Of course, there’ll be stationery. Who doesn’t need new pens and fancy rubbers?

And then there’s the toothbrush.

The very first stocking Robert and I filled back in 1997 contained a toothbrush for our five-month-old daughter. Robert thought it was a bit odd. To be honest, it was a bit odd, since she didn’t actually have any teeth at the time. But the thing was that though it wasn’t part of his family tradition, in my family stockings always contained toothbrushes. (I thought the coin in the stocking’s toe – only £1 back then – was odd but that was his tradition). How cute we were, making up our own new family’s traditions (‘Aaaah!’)

So this week, my mother has been staying with me and as we were wandering around the Christmassy shops, we were talking about Christmas stockings. I mentioned needing to get toothbrushes and that it was because of the stockings that me and my brother had opened when we were kids. And my mother said she’d put them in our stocking because of the nailbrushes in What Katy Did.

The nailbrushes in What Katy Did? I had no idea what she was talking about. And so, of course, I went right home and looked it up. Here’s Katy, stuffing stockings with her father and Aunt Izzy.

‘A little later, papa and Aunt Izzy came in and they filled the stockings. It was great fun. Each was brought to Katy, as she lay in bed, that she might arrange it as she liked.
The toes were stuffed with candy and oranges. Then came the parcels, all shapes and sizes, tied in white paper with ribbons, and labelled.
“What’s that?” asked Dr. Carr, as Aunt Izzy rammed a long, narrow package into Clover’s stocking.
“A nail-brush,” answered Aunt Izzy; “Clover needed a new one.”
How papa and Katy laughed! “I don’t believe Santa Claus ever had such a thing before,” said Dr. Carr.
“He’s a very dirty old gentleman, then,” observed Aunt Izzy, grimly.’

I love Christmas. I love the traditions that everyone has and the ones that are peculiar to my family. I adore finding perfect things to put in Christmas stockings. But now there is the added pleasure of knowing my stockings give a nod to classic children’s literature. And I am ridiculously pleased by that.

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