This is both the first Christmas since 2008 that I've been "home" in Canada and Benedict Ambrose's first-ever Canadian Christmas, so as you can imagine, it's very special.
One of the more blast-from-the-past aspects so far was doing the majority of our Christmas shopping in Toronto stores. Usually I buy Christmas presents for family online (which I loathe) or I buy everyone a book from my favourite Edinburgh bookshop and send them by post for an eye-watering sum. But this year I could choose presents from the vast retail networks of Canada's largest city, so when I asked family members what they wanted for Christmas, there was a really good chance they would get it.
I am not fond of shopping--in fact, I break into a sweat in crowded stores--and so I was particularly grateful to family members who told me exactly what they, or other family members, wanted for Christmas. I didn't know what my younger nephew would like, which led to a sweaty visit to the Indigo Bookshop in the Eaton Centre and a stern self-scolding to keep me from fleeing. My brother Quadrophonic tipped me off to my elder nephew's favourite clothing brand, which led to a more confident visit to the Hudson's Bay Company and then the Eaton Centre in search of it.
Come to think of it, these were also sweaty visits, as I was raised to believe that when you buy a brand name, you are "paying for the label," and if the brand name is visible on the clothing, you are a "walking billboard" providing the brand with "free advertising." I wondered if by chasing after Pirate's preferred label, I was contributing to a pernicious social trend. At the same time, though, I spent at least 15 minutes mooning over super-pricey Hudson's Bay Company products because they symbolise the Canadian dream, i.e. having your own cottage by a lake in the wilderness. Thus, I realised I was not that different from my nephew, and if he wanted [X brand] for Christmas, he should get [X brand] for Christmas.
Quadrophonic was not delighted to know that I had exploited his intel to buy [X brand] for Pirate, for he had also bought [X brand] stuff for Pirate. Fortunately, though, he bought him a long-sleeved shirt and sweatpants whereas B.A. and I bought him a short-sleeved shirt and a hat. The more [X brand] stuff, the better, I calculated, and lo. It was so. Pirate was amazed and delighted when he opened his Toronto uncle's present and then amazed and delighted again when he opened his Edinburgh aunt and uncle's present. Breaking into a sweat in the Men's Department of the Bay and then going forth to the Eaton Centre was totally worth it--as was paying for the label. I mean, the label was the point.
When people asked me what I wanted I replied in all truth that I wanted tights and socks, and thus I was happy to get three pairs of tights and something like ten pairs of socks. But I also wanted beeswax candles, which Quadrophonic gave B.A. and me, and he gave us a shoe shine kit, too, having perceived from my boots that we clearly need one.
I did not ask for, and thus did not get, pricey Hudson's Bay Company items (will I crack tomorrow and buy at very least the HBC-striped mittens?). However, since B.A. and I took the train to Montreal and my brother Nulli Secundus drove us to his village in Quebec's Eastern Townships, we have been more-or-less living the lifestyle symbolised by the HBC label. We are across the street from a frozen lake, and the house is surrounded by pine trees. There is snow on the ground, and mountain views a quick drive away. The neighbourhood is dotted with handsome United Empire Loyalist clapboard dwellings built circa 1820... Okay, I'm off topic. In short, there's nothing like giving a loved one--especially a loved one with little money--the Exact Right Thing for Christmas.