Whilst this may have fallen out of favour and children are given their presents at home, the idea behind a centralised group or charity doing this is very much in the spirit of Saint Nicolas of Myra's secret gift giving.
Because where you have children who have nothing, this way, they would get a present
But behind the random acts of kindness in Saint Nicolas of Myra's history, we now have a Father Christmas or Santa Claus who has lists of naughty or nice children where those on the bad list get lumps of coal.
For me, I like to think of a few years ago when I helped to wrap up presents at the local Salvation Army. These were being given to families who really have nothing at Christmas. All said that they were from Father Christmas.
For those children who have nothing, a present that their parents didn't have to worry about affording, was literally a God send.
Whilst Christmas has become commercialised, so has Father Christmas.
A Visit from St. Nicolas by Clement Clarke Moore, published in the early 1820s, brings us the idea of reindeer and also names them. And as this idea of the personification of Merry Christmas merged with the man in the red suit, so he starts to appear in commercials.
By1931, Coca-Cola commissioned ilustration Haddon Sundblom to paint Sanata for Christmas adverts and the trend was born.
In 1939, Montgomery Ward, a Chicago based department store commissioned ad man Robert L. May to create a colouring book as an instore holiday giveaway. The book; Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer inspired the Jonny Marks song of the say name. May was Mark's brother-in-law.
In the same article that I've linked about Montgomery Ward, the author suggests you search Santa and cigarette ads on google. Don't. You will be horrified to see the number of times Santa was used to promote smoking.
Amongst all the commercialism, I'm reminded of a couple of years ago when I went to the local Salvation Army and wrapped up presents for families who literally had nothing at Christmas.
These gifts, for their children, were marked as from Father Christmas and embodied the real spirit of Saint Nicolas, giving secretly to people who need it.
So, I've previously talked about the Christmas presents past, but now that Christmas day is over, I can talk of the presents made this year.
This year's present for my Brother (and Sister In Law) and Sister (and Brother in Law) was a book pillow.
Book pillows are very on trend this year, but I first saw them late last year. The concept is easy; a pillow with a pocket at the front which is designed to hold the book you are reading. They also often have a loop at the top to act as a handle, so that you can carry them from one cosy place to another.
I had been wandering over on Spoonflower. It's a fantastic site where people can upload their drawings and illustrations to create print on demand fabric, wallpaper, bedding and other fabric-based items. You can order fabric on different materials and anything from a 20x20cm swatch, a fat quarter or by the metre.
We have an in-family joke regarding Jane Austen. We are distantly related to her on our paternal side. She is our 2nd cousin 6x removed. So, when I have the opportunity, I include something Janite related.
I found two fabrics that I particularly liked. One was covered in quotes and the other was filled with drawings of book covers. At the time of writing, a metre of cotton poplin is just under £20. I decided to order a metre of each. The fabric takes around 8 - 10 days to be printed and is 106cm wide. I ordered on 2nd October and it was delivered just 11 days later on 13th. Shipping for the two metres was just over £5.
I was happy to pay for the print on demand fabric as I would make the cushions unique. Add to this that I got the back panels as ready made (with the zips already inserted) in the closing down sale at Colemans, earlier in the year, I felt it was worth being a little indulgent for the main fabric.
I used a good quality quilting calico as the lining for the pocket to give some weight to the pocket and hopefully stop it from sagging over time.
In all, it took longer to iron the fabric pieces, once cut out, than it did to sew them all up.
I found a great tutorial on the 'Hello Sewing' blog with a guide to fabric sizes. I made the pocket a little shorter than recommended, but that was just a personal preference. There is also a video tutorial by the same blogger.
I only have a small number of people that I give presents to.
So, as each of them are craft worthy, I plan through the year to make something special.
A few years back, I made myself a crochet scarf and loved it so much, I decided to make one each for my sister and sister-in-law. Colours are easy. Sue, my SIL loves shades of blue. Kris, my sister, loves reds and purples.
The yarn is Lion Brand Shawl in a Ball. Mindful Mauve for my sister in shades of cream, warm brown and purples. Healing Teal for my SIL in shades of grey, teal and blue.
The pattern is Diagonal Eyelets by Lion Brand and whilst shawl in a ball behaves like an Aran weight yarn, it's actually more like a 4ply so you get this light open texture that is soft from the cotton / acrylic mix. As a project, it crochets up in a few evenings, so definitely something you can whip up as a fast present for someone who is crochet-worthy.
For my brother and brother-in-law, that year, I decided that this would be the year that I taught myself to not just knit, but knit in the round with colour work.
Working with chunky wool, which is more forgiving and works up quickly, I knitted Christmas Tree Hats. I made two with the brown earth rib and loved them so much that I then made one with the red rib for myself.
The pattern is X-mas Trees beanie from Patternery.
So, not a bad start.
Then the following year, around August, I saw a kit to make a blanket. To buy enough yarn and make a blanket is a big investment. But, at the time, the yarn was half price so I couldn't resist.
The pattern was a 'tartan' throw by Deramores, in their chunky yarn. Much later, I found out that this yarn borders on super chunky and that is how I ended knitting from September to December, and creating two single bed sized blankets that then had to be 'embroidered' with the vertical stripes of the pattern.
This was the first Christmas of lockdown and in early January, my brother had to go to the hospital for a check up. My SIL went with him, but had to stay in the car. She took the blanket, that I made, with her to snuggle up in whilst she waited. I think that is the best recommendation for someone being knitworthy.
I added a leather tag that said 'handmade by Liz' and pasted the washing instructions for the yarn onto the rear of a gift tag as a way to pass them on.
Then onto last Christmas. I have no idea why, but I had the urge to make tea cosies. Hubby thought I had gone completely mad. He kept asking me if my siblings drank tea. But by the end of the knitting and sewing, he was just the slightest bit jealous and asking about having one made for him. Fox on a flower mound for my sister. Cat on a green hill.