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The Stocking, the Big Gift and Family Visits
by John Hall

In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, the Christmas stocking was an essential basic gift.
Dad’s stockings were used because they were the biggest and most robust. And every stocking was pinned up on Christmas Eve, hanging from the mantle shelf.

Every stocking had an orange- no matter what else was in it. Usually, there were some sweets, a comic book, a pair of socks or gloves or a hat or such-like.

And there was the big gift in the living room- a game of Monopoly once, a hockey game once, and four tickets to the hockey game at Maple Leaf Gardens that evening.
My family visited Uncle Tom’s family in Weston on Christmas Day, and Uncle Tom’s family visited our family in Toronto on New Year’s Day.

When we visited Weston, Uncle Tom would carve the bird. He was a butcher by trade, although he was very well known as a sheep farmer, and he appeared in movie newsreels displaying the craft of shearing sheep at speed. Anyway, he was a marvel at sharpening the carving knife, and I recall being mesmerized by the slick, slick, slick sound as I watched him perform that ritual.

Everyone sat down at the dining room table, pulled the Christmas crackers and donned the coloured paper hats just before we all tucked into a delicious Christmas dinner.

After the meal, the women and girls were washing and drying dishes and chatting animatedly about- who knows? Meanwhile, Uncle Tom and my Dad would start a game of cards. There they were - two brothers of relatively serious disposition throughout much of the year- sitting wearing these silly coloured paper hats and enjoying a game of cribbage on Christmas afternoon- what I regard now as the ultimate in family togetherness.

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