Every day in the leadup to Christmas, open the door to reveal a Spinoff writer’s short, sizzling commentary on a weighty subject. Our arbitrary and strictly enforced word limit: 365. Today: Leonie Hayden on why she should still have a Christmas stocking.
I am 37-years-old and I still get a Christmas stocking. I would be inconsolable if I woke up on Christmas morning and didn’t find one.
I wake up and there it is – thin, red and white striped, as old as I am. It’s filled with tat. I take my Christmas stocking and I get into bed with my mum, inserting myself into the negative space created by dog and cat limbs.
Every year there is an orange in the toe of my stocking, and my mum tells me for the 35th, 36th, and soon 37th time that she would get an orange in the toe of her stocking and my nana would get an orange in the toe of her stocking. Oranges, I’m told with comforting regularity, were rare in Depression-era rural England and considered a real Christmas treat.
When I was little, the stocking was filled with little toys and games, as well as cherries and chocolates. We couldn’t afford many presents, but my stocking was always just perfect. Nowadays, it’s filled with toiletries and cosmetics, the odd toy or puzzle, and still shot through with cherries and chocolates.
It’s not about the treats. I can buy my own tat and toiletries. It’s about ritual, and what that orange represents. My nana was beloved, the only grandparent I knew. She was a wonderful writer who had her words stolen from her by Alzheimer’s. She migrated to New Zealand on a passenger ship called the Endeavour. Later, in her rest home she would tell the carers she came here on the Endeavour and they would smile and say ‘yes, of course, you did dear’. She did, she did, mum and I would cry! She passed away when I was 19.
The tradition of the stocking and the orange means I still spend my Christmas mornings with her. I save the orange and eat it later in the afternoon as an antidote to all the rich food. I press the pieces gently between my teeth, let the juice fill up my mouth and try to imagine how an orange must have tasted to a little girl brought up on porridge, bread and dripping.
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The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.