Community & Current Events

Famous Canadians' favourite Christmas gifts

By: Vickie Reichardt

Courtesy of CBC Author: Canadian Living Credits: Courtesy of CBC

Community & Current Events

Famous Canadians' favourite Christmas gifts

By: Vickie Reichardt
Lisa LaFlamme 
CTV News reporter and anchor

It sounds so cliché, but my favourite toy was a doll, and her name was Walking Wendy. I was four years old when she was given to me. I remember vividly that we were all up at the cottage, and my dad came up on the weekend carrying this big box. It was overwhelming for this big box to arrive and to see a doll that was the same height as I was!

Wendy and I were inseparable when I was a very small child. We both had short blond hair and were the same height, so I must have felt that she was my twin. Every birthday and every Christmas my mother would make matching outfits for the doll and me.

When I left home, Wendy stayed forever in my old room, and when I moved to Toronto and had my own house, she showed up there. My mother brought her – and all of her clothes – and now she sits in a guest room. In fact, throughout my life, she's always just been sitting quietly. That's been her role forever. She can't talk but I guess I always felt she could listen, and she became this calm, constant presence in my life. Now, whenever my nieces come over, they get to go into the Walking Wendy room. Of course, her eyelashes are gone – I don't know how they disappeared – she's got a hole in her heel and her hair is a little matted, but Wendy is still around. It's nice that there's something for my nieces to play with other than a computer.

Rick Mercer
CBC TV satirist

When I was six or seven years old, I got an Easy-Bake Oven. You know, it takes a real man to admit that he had an Easy-Bake Oven. I'd asked Santa for one; it was probably because my sister was diabetic. We were all raised on a diabetic diet and I thought, If I had my own oven we could have dessert! There was never any dessert, really. You'd get fruit salad and cottage cheese. That's what passed for dessert in my house. If it was a really crazy weekend, you might get a Fresca.

I remember my brother telling me that boys didn't get Easy-Bake Ovens. But I certainly got one, and it was yellow, and I was thrilled. But, for some reason, it never really worked well. It took hours and hours to bake a cake. I found out later it was because I had 40-watt bulbs in it, and you're supposed to use 100-watt bulbs. I remember my father explaining to me that the 100-watt bulbs were very, very expensive, but I realize now he was worried that the thing was going to burst into flames.

It wasn't until I was 18 years old, in a Canadian Tire store one day, that I picked up a 100-watt bulb to look at the price, and I was aghast to see that it was the same price as the 40-watt bulb! My entire life I had been under the impression that 100-watt bulbs were outrageously expensive.

Page 1 of 3 -- Find heart-warming memories from Lynn Johnston, Christine Cushing and Serena Ryder on page 2
Lynn Johnston
Cartoonist, For Better or For Worse

I was about seven years old when I received my metal dollhouse as a Christmas gift from my dad. He'd seen it and thought that it would be something I'd like, and he was right on the money. I can still see it; I know exactly how big it was and what it looked like. It had all these little people in it and little furniture, little dressers with little mirrors, curtains and pictures painted on the walls, a sink with tile behind it and a cuckoo clock in the kitchen. And there were carpets painted right on the floor. It was just a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, and you don't see that much anymore. I loved it!

I made up imaginary characters and stories and I would play. It was just a wonderful opportunity to enjoy my own imagination. I had it until I was about 12. We were always a very giving family and we always said, "Oh, so-and-so would like this. The neighbours' kids are a perfect age for this." I readily gave things away, just as my parents did. Now, of's not that I want it back, I'd just like to see it again.

Christine Cushing
Chef and TV host

Busy Lizzy was my pride and joy. The best day of my life was when I opened the box for Busy Lizzy at Christmas when I was eight. I was so excited! She was this beautiful doll that stood a foot- and-a-half tall, maybe two, and she had curly, blond hair that was kind of Shirley Temple-esque. She came with an ironing board, a vacuum cleaner and a duster – and I l-o-v-e-d her. I really, really loved that doll. I would get so excited because you could stand her at the ironing board and put the little iron in her hand and she would go back and forth on the ironing board, ironing.

The worst day was when I came home and my brother, who was very mischievous and destructive, had just trashed her, ripped her apart, and she was not repairable. I was devastated and started flipping out. I was just so distraught. I'd had her for less than a year. Poor Lizzy.

Serena Ryder

There's only really one toy that made it through for me, and that was the classic teddy bear. I've had this teddy since I was two years old. It was Christmastime, and I'm pretty sure my mom gave him to me. My teddy bear has no name. He's the plainest teddy bear I've ever seen. He has a big bum and stumps for legs, so he's always sitting upright, like a bear sitting down to eat some honey. He's got soft brown fur, a mouth made of string stitched in a "W," a dark brown nose and eyes that kind of look like cat's eyes or marbles. He's never come apart, ever, so he's sewn up pretty well!

I've always had a huge imagination and, as a child, I found that a lot of toys that did too much, said things or made sounds didn't let me make up any stories about them, because they already did it all for me. With this bear, I could make anything I wanted happen. He was a blank canvas. He wasn't too big or too small, so I could always have him around. I still have him, in my room, on my bed. That's the beauty of this teddy bear! I lose everything; I break things, and I stain things, and I shrink everything that I put into the laundry. But this teddy bear is something that has always been around, and I've never lost him, and he's been this solid thing in my life. My life has evolved around this stuffed animal. He just has this timelessness about him.

Page 2 of 3 -- What are Elizabeth May and Kurt Browning's favourite holiday moments? Find out on page 3
Kurt Browning 
World-Champion Figure Skater

I was about eight years old when I got my Hot Wheels. They came with a big plastic wheel that opened up so you could store all your cars in there, and this simple, orange plastic track that only fits one car. I had a lot of fun playing with it that way...until I found a little plastic thing that the track sits on to put it at different angles, so you can hook it up to a counter or the piano and then the cars can go down a big hill. Once I did that, the whole Hot Wheels orange-track experience became exponentially more fun.

I had a serious close call with them once when my older cousin came to visit. He took my BB gun and thought it would be fun to line up all my toys and shoot them. I saved my Hot Wheels from him by running quickly and getting my dad. I'm amazed that I still have about 12 or 13 of my cars from the glory days of Hot Wheeling, and they still work! Now I play with them with my son, Gabe, who's four. So, here I am, 33 years later, still playing the same game: which car goes the farthest?

Elizabeth May
Leader of the Green Party of Canada

The toy that I remember the most – the toy that I asked for very specifically, and that I kept the longest, and that I took on all the family trips – was a doll I got when I was about four, maybe five. I'd asked my parents for her for Christmas, and I was very precise about it: I wanted a life-size baby doll that was realistic, with eyes that closed. I named her Mary after my godmother and she went with us everywhere. I carried her around and she was almost as big as me when I got her!

I was very conscientious as a "mother." I never lost her, and I even brought her with me on two trips to England. My dad's parents lived in England, and in those days, the way you went to England was by boat. So my doll and I had two trips back and forth to England aboard the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth. I remember that because the doll's name was Mary and my name was Elizabeth, so there was an identification with a queen on each trip. I remember holding her up to be sure she was always looking out the windows as we travelled, making sure she could see out of the taxi as we went down to New York City to get on the ship.

And I still have her! She's still got all her arms and legs and toes, and she sits in my bedroom in Ottawa, on a little wicker chair that I used to have when I was a baby. I'm very sentimental. I actually still have most of my toys from when I was little.

This story was originally titled "Toy Stories" in the December 2007 issue.

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Famous Canadians' favourite Christmas gifts