“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…” So goes the phrase in the famed story The Night before Christmas. What do you remember about Christmas stockings from your past? In my family, we always were allowed to look at everything in our Christmas stocking as soon as we woke up, even if my parents weren’t awake. We pulled out everything from inside the stocking which usually included candies and small toys until we got to the orange at the bottom of the toe. The citrus fragrance of the traditional toe stuffer still reminds me of Christmas mornings. My favorite stocking stuffers from my childhood include Pez candy dispensers filled with those tart little Pez rectangular pastel candies, silly putty, chocolate candy and candy canes. Silly putty could be flattened onto newsprint and would transfer the print images onto the putty. It could also be rolled into a ball and bounced around. The colorful plastic egg it was packaged in made it a good gift choice for Easter baskets but we also received it for Christmas. I also remember getting ball and jacks sets and being fascinated trying to pick up the sparkly atomic looking jacks (historically known as knucklebones) while the little red ball was bounced with another hand. Emptying the Christmas stocking, eating the candy and orange from inside, and trying out the little toys inside could occupy a child for about a half hour before the main stash of Santa gifts were revealed.
I kept this stocking opening tradition with my own four children. They could take their stocking in the morning and enjoy the contents before other siblings awakened. I, too, placed a tangerine or small orange in the toe of the stockings. This is supposed to symbolize the gold coins that St. Nicholas placed in the stockings of the three daughters of a poor merchant according to the legend of the origin of the Christmas stocking. The candy cane in the stocking symbolizes the shepherd hook that St. Nicholas, a bishop from Turkey, carried with him. My mother-in-law always stocked us well with the famous chocolate mint candy made at Marshall Fields where she worked. So our kids were never short on chocolates in the stockings. My favorites were some round chocolate balls wrapped in festive foil Christmas patterns; they gave a small burst of milk chocolate joy in the mouth on Christmas. My son asked for the same gift from Santa every year when he was young – “guys.” “Guys” were what he called action figures. These small plastic toys could keep him busy for hours and they easily fit into a Christmas stocking. John was the early bird in the family both by nature and because he was the youngest. He could get up, dump out his stocking and play with the guys until his sisters awoke. As our three girls grew older, the stocking gifts progressed from small dolls like Polly Pockets and the annoying Tamagotchi virtual pets (which beeped all over the house to signal for care) to nail polish and gel pens in their stockings.
Christmas is about giving and remembering others. It is also about memories and traditions. Have fun planning gifts this year, Merry Christmas, and remember “Hang the Stockings with Care!”
Lisa Radville is a wife, mom, Grammy, owner of a dog named Wiggles, nurse practitioner, and co-founder of Lively Custom Water Bottle.