No, I’m not an over 60 scrooge. I write cards, wish people ‘Merry Christmas’, love planning and buying presents and wrapping them, decorate the tree, put a wreath on the front door, cook a Christmas lunch. But two words embarrass me, make me cringe: ‘stocking fillers’.
What sort of a society have we become where it’s not enough to give a present? It seems there has to be a main present, and then ‘fillers’. Because it’s not just children’s stockings that have to be filled – perfume, household items, stationery are all advertised as ‘stocking fillers’.
It’s wonderful to be part of a child’s Christmas and to play a role in surprising them and delighting them. Christmas was always important when I was a child, and when Dad had finished conducting the round of Christmas services (he was a Methodist minister) we had our family celebrations. But there had been a Christmas stocking, one of dad’s old socks kept specially. It certainly was never full! There were two or three toys, something practical and a Christmas lolly. Under the tree were presents from our parents, relatives and to each other. I know some families have the big gifts from Santa Claus.
It is interesting to see how families blend and make their own traditions from two often very different traditions.
We loved being Santa Claus when our children were young and the small gifts were put in a variety of stockings. At one stage, when you got your groceries in big brown paper bags, decorating a bag on Christmas Eve with your name and colourful pictures helped two little girls stay calm in the Christmas Eve excitement. These large bags were definitely never filled!
The Christmas when our eldest grandchildren were about two was a delight as they were totally unaware that the coloured parcels at the base of the tree contained anything interesting. Christmas day was a total surprise. Five years later when the four were all together, and they could all read their names on the tags, it was quite a different story. And sharing the excitement of two granddaughters as they showed us the contents of their stockings was a joy – little toys and games their mother had thoughtfully bought through the year.
No, it’s not stockings or presents that cause disquiet. It’s the assumption behind the advertising that there has to be more. That the something doesn’t have real meaning except to fill a space. It’s not something the recipient wants, or something the giver has thought carefully about and given with care, it’s something that exists simply to fill space.
In a time when so meaning people think of others – charity Christmas cards and calendars, gifts such as a duck to a poor village organised through such groups as Oxfam and Care, gift trees run by stores and local councils through major charities, volunteering at Christmas lunches – advertisers should be ashamed of this ploy.
Stocking fillers! Not in this household!
Do you agree with Vivienne? Do you buy stocking fillers? Tell us your thoughts below.