Every family seems to have its own traditions for the holidays. Some go to midnight services on Christmas Eve and celebrate when they come home. Some don't put up their Christmas tree till Christmas Eve after the kids have gone to bed. Some open presents on Christmas morning; others open them on Christmas Eve. Lin's mother-in-law, Lucy, is Italian and prepares a huge Seven Fish Feast on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, we open our presents on Christmas morning, but it's the filled stockings, not the presents, that get the most attention. Yes, we are traditional stocking stuffer aficionados.
Tradition has it that on one Christmas Eve St. Nicholas overheard that a poor family needed help, but would accept no charity. So he secretly tossed some gold balls into their stockings which were drying by the hearth. A happy ending to that story and the word spread and, well, you know the rest.
In our family, we stuff each others stockings to give Santa a break. I stuff Lin's stocking and she stuffs mine. We both work at stuffing stockings for as many people as we expect on Christmas morning. We have had a wide variety of Christmas stockings over the years. I've determined that the best ones are those that stretch. Though it's definitely more difficult for the person filling, it's much more satisfactory for the receiver, e.g. me. There are rules about stocking stuffing. First, no big orange in the toe like Mom used to do … that's cheating ... although reading more about the history of the Christmas stocking, the orange is symbolic of those gold balls, so I guess it would be okay in a pinch. (I'm sure Mom never did it for the symbolism.) Coal is allowed if it's warranted … that naughty or nice thing is at play here. Come to think of it, sometimes we tend to reward naughty … but that's another story.
So back to the rules … all items must be wrapped with care and tied with ribbon. The stocking must be filled to overflowing … extra items can be laid on the side of the stocking, if necessary. We usually add a fancy stocking topper that's suited to the individual stocking owner and can be used as a Christmas ornament in subsequent years. The actual contents of the little gift boxes and treats is really inconsequential. It's the anticipation of unwrapping so many tiny little packets that's the fun part. Lin and I always work to surprise each other … in one way or another. There's a tin of inedible veggie pate that's traveled from continent to continent for over a decade as sister stocking stuffers.
Everyone who's present Christmas morning gets a stocking, including our pets. I can remember a huge family Christmas which involved nearly 20+ filled Christmas stockings. Now, those were the good old days ... although I must admit filling that many stockings was a challenge. I relied heavily on Santa that year.
This Christmas Eve, I'll fill just Lin's stocking and my mom's. David is back in Oz where our usual stockings are packed in a plastic bin on the forward bunk. I'm hoping that Santa doesn't forget him.