Remember when getting a satsuma was enough?

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LESLEY KEATING: A white-knuckle pursuit ending with a lesson in trust

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Christmas is a great time for instigating family traditions.

Perhaps you open presents after breakfast, in the afternoon, or on Christmas Eve.

Some families traditionally invite friends and family around for afternoon drinks.

Others ban all contact with other forms of human life in order to watch the Christmas special of Only Fools and Horses.

In our house, Christmas really gets started when they show the film Elf on the telly and we huddle together to watch it in all its cheesy glory.

However some traditions, such as filling stockings with gifts, can be fraught with stress.

The ritual of placing a stocking (or pillowcase) by the fireplace on Christmas Eve in the hope that it will be filled with goodies by morning began, it is thought, with a story about a visit from St Nicholas, just over 100 years ago.

But whatever and whenever it all began, I can almost guarantee that most parents dread finding things to fill the stockings.

Many years ago, children were thrilled to receive a walnut, satsuma and a 10p piece in their stocking.

But can you imagine children nowadays yelping with glee over such a discovery?

I remember receiving a couple of books, chocolate coins and some fruit in my stocking (or plastic bag, as it was).

If I was lucky I also found some M&S talcum powder in there too. What a simpler life that was!

Trying to buy anything useful to put in a stocking for under £5 is practically impossible these days.

And I am loathe to buy things that will be toyed with briefly on Christmas afternoon and then discarded with a lot of the other tat already festooning my house.

So I do plump for books that they want, DVDs, and things that they need (socks or slippers).

They don’t get much for the rest of the year, so why not stuff it all in their stockings?

But it doesn’t come cheap.

The problem now is when to stop?

At what age do you stop such traditions? When they leave home?

And as they get older, the types of things that they will use tend to be more expensive. I don’t think I can get away with putting a plastic robin in my 14-year-old’s stocking this year.

They all know that it is me who spends the hours traipsing around the shops trying to find the gifts so why bother with the pretence?

And I know of grown-ups who still receive a stocking from their parents or vice versa!

But my problem is that I try to treat my children all equally and if the oldest stops getting a stocking, then should the other two give up the habit too?

That doesn’t seem fair.

Do I really have to wait for the time when my youngest turns 18 – even if I’m still buying stuff to put in a stocking for her 23-year-old sister?

I don’t want to imagine the grief I would get if one stopped getting one and the others continued to.

Still, I do enjoy seeing them open their pressies and their grins do make it all worthwhile.

I just hope that their behaviour doesn’t force me into stuffing their stockings with coal this year.