Christmas has many meanings but at its core is the idea of the gift. Growing up in a working-class community that gift was always simple, practical and inexpensive. A pair of socks one year or a pen and pencil set the next.

“It’s the thought that counts,” a defensive aunt would say as she handed out one of those “two for the price of one” handkerchief specials at the local store.

Since my dad was born on December 25, I once wrapped up one sock as his Christmas gift and the other as his birthday gift; he was partly amused. True, as a little boy I used to envy children who got those huge racing tracks with speeding cars or a bright-red bicycle under the Christmas tree. Looking back, however, I learnt some precious lessons about gifting in my parent’s council home.

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