I’m fondly recalling the cheap Christmases of my youth. At large gatherings of family, or at school, or at the local recreation center you had a lot of kids and limited funds. Very inexpensive giveaways were the rule. I can’t blame the powers-that-be – after all, we were getting entertained and Stuff for Free, even if it was really cheap. We’d get one of those stiff, ludicrously open-meshed “stockings” (that weren’t very stocking-shaped):
The gifts inside seemed to be mostly manufactured overseas, with cheap trademark- and copyright- violating images of Mickey Mouse and the like that didn’t look quite right. Contents included:
– Small Coloring Books on odd paper
– Crayons (for coloring the books) that appeared to be made out of almost pure wax with very little coloring matter. These left a sort-of-colored streak on the paper, with lots of little crumbly bits of wax on either side. Crayolas they weren’t.
– Water-based tattoos of generic things (Christmas trees, wreaths) or the afore-mentioned ripped off copyrighted characters
– “Flip books” that were supposed to be little animated scenes, only the images were too different from each other, so it was more as if someone cut out images from a comic strip and stapled them together.
– cheap, thin, spindly candy canes that were invariably broken inside their plastic wrapping.
– Simple Magic Tricks, like dollar bill holders, or disappearing ball containers
– simple paper and plastic toys that tended to break easily, like yo-yos, paper coil “yo yos”, tiny water squirt guns that held a thmbleful of water, “Chinese finger holders,” etc.
In those pre-DVD and pre-VCR days, the height of extravagance was a sound movie projector showing 1940s-era cartoons or Three Stooges shorts, or else somebody’s TC turned to the local independent station and its kids shows.