Christmas was always the best and most exciting time of the year.
When I say that Santa (aka Mother, Mrs Anne Hoffmann) - sometimes with support from Father (Ken Hoffmann) did us proud I don't mean that we were spoiled or received any expensive presents - no, instead we always got a stocking which was filled full of imaginative small presents which were an absolute delight to wake up to.
Like most kids it was the one evening of the year when we were keen to go to bed early of our own accord. And of course it was the one morning in the year that we were keen to get up early too!
I'm not too sure how it worked in all the other households in The Stair.
In terms of quality high spend presents Norman Stewart (6/3 Oxgangs Avenue) did better than any of the other children.
One feature which I didn't enjoy at school was that on our return in January the teacher always asked us all individually, in front of the class, what we had received.
I can recall telling a fib saying that I had been given a graphic designer's set - of course I didn't have a scooby what that was but I was determined not to be out-gunned by Norman - he of course was the one pupil in the class who knew perfectly well that I had not received any such thing!
In my memory Christmas Eve was a very quiet evening in The Stair.
I can recall my father regularly going out to the Christmas Eve Watchnight church service, presumably at Colinton Mains Parish Church, the same church which the Swansons attended - I don't think he went to the remarkable Reverend Jack Orr's St John's Church service.
|Colinton Mains Parish Church|
|St John's Churdh of Scotland, Oxgangs Road North|
|Rev Jack Orr|
Over the years Mother and our next door neighbour Mrs Molly Swanson (6/1) had an arrangement whereby Mum gave Gavin and Heather a wee tin of Woolworths' toffees and we all received something from Molly - as mentioned I once got a book from her, but when it was opened it instead contained seven tubes of sweets inside arranged horizontally inside.
The Hoggs up above (6/4) always received girly pressies and I can recall my sister Anne spending time with Christina, Maureen and Eileen. I'm much vaguer on the Blades (6/6), other than one year when Alison, Ruth and Esther got their Spacehoppers.
Presumably before Anne was born our grandfather gave Iain and me a bobble Santa each which were full of wrapped toffees - the figure is a delight and has been carefully looked after over the past fifty years - each year we bring the two Santas out. The Swansons got a similar Santa figure, but they had less jolly faces.
I may be wrong but I seem to recall that the Hanlons and the Blades were quite big on such decorations as the linked rings which went from corner to corner across the ceiling.
I used to regret that we were more conservative with individual Woolworths' decorations which were very attractive and aesthetically pleasing. There wasn't such a crowded effect which as a boy I would have liked. I suspect Woolworths did Mrs Anne Hoffmann and many other parents proud over the decades.
On Christmas Eve each of the three of would leave one of our mother's nylon stockings at the foot of our beds.
I was always the first of us to awake.
I would crawl down the bed and reach out to see if Santa had arrived yet and then the excitement of feeling the bulkiness of the mis-shapen stocking full of surprises was the most wonderful sensation in the world It's Christmas! I would bellow out It's Christmas! as I jumped down from the bunk bed to switch on the light and awaken the others.
The stockings were just great - they were filled with torches; little games; Yogi Bear or Huckleberry Hound picture books; perhaps a young person's novel; colouring books and pens; a selection box; some gold coins; an orange and an apple and a half crown; The Broons or Oor Wullie annual in later years.
Anne would get some girly stuff - I particularly recall a delightful peach smelling cream; whilst Iain might get a toy car, perhaps a Corgi or some Matchbox cars; on one occasion when quite young I got a leather football and football boots. Iain was very into his cars whilst I was uninterested in cars, although ironically I have had more sports cars over the years than one could throw a stick at, much to my wife's dismay.
These Christmas mornings were simple little affairs, but wonderful - our mother ensured that these were magical occasions every year from being very small children and into our teens; happy times and very, very sweet memories, which I've never forgotten.
Much like Sundays, on Christmas Day we saw very little of what went on in The Stair because our grandfather would collect us at mid-morning and take us down to Portobello for the day, not returning till late at night - but for that you'll all have to be patient children and wait until Christmas Day to hear that story!