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HumankindNESS-Stocking Stuffers

By Jennifer Richardson
Since our children were very young, we have opened our Christmas stockings the night before our family Christmas celebration. The handing out of the stockings to each child, and now grandchild, is the official beginning of our annual traditions. I like to refer to this as opening night.

There are advantages to this plan. First, it marks the starting point; everyone knows this year’s festivities are underway when those stockings are taken down from their perch and placed into excited hands. This process also stretches out the holiday experience. It just whets the appetite and builds the anticipation of what is to come the next day.

Many times the children (who are now 24, 26, and 27) still ask to be allowed to open gifts right after the stockings, but I steadfastly say, no, stockings are always first and then the next day, the presents. They argue and cajole, but secretly they love the foretaste of these little moments of fun that offer hints of what is to come.

Through the years I have filled the stockings with various things. There have been theme years, such as cosmetics or spa supplies. To their great embarrassment, one year I filled the stockings with undergarments. When all your children are girls you can have those funny moments. There was much laughter, (and eye-rolling from dad) but let us just say it was a stocking year they will not soon forget.

The contents of the Christmas stockings have varied in value over decades of holidays. There were the very lean years in the beginning, in which a stocking filled with candy was likely. For a couple of years there were three little items in each, all from the dollar store. The girls loved every minute of the grand “opening,” and shared their delight with each other as they oohed and ahhed.

And then there were years when some actual cash began to show up in the mix. This has remained a popular stocking stuffer idea, but we only stuff with what we want to give, not what anyone asks for. Above all, everything must be a complete surprise. There are no hints, and there are no spoilers.

I can’t say we have ever stuffed stockings with anything extravagant, but I can say we put special care into everything we choose. And of course, every item in the stocking is individually wrapped. Even something as small as a gift card must be wrapped. The prospect of not knowing the contents is exciting, but also I have a family of peekers who would surreptitiously check out their loot behind the scenes. One year, after some sneaky, early attempts to check out the contents, I actually sewed the stockings shut–only to be opened at the appointed time.

Yes, wrapping is a must. It preserves the mystery and heightens the experience of joyful uncertainty.

Over the years the stockings have changed in color, size, and texture. I have learned that a knit stocking is easier to stuff things into than a fabric stocking, and that larger stockings become cumbersome as the number of family members grows.

In the early part of December I was once again wrapping items for this year’s Christmas celebration. I pulled out the stockings from the box we stored them in, and took a moment to look at the hand-written name tags on each one. The original names of three little girls have become a list of daughters, husbands, and now four grandchildren.

The better part of an afternoon was spent wrapping tiny things and setting them in neat, sorted piles to be stuffed into the stockings that will once again this week signal the beginning of our annual Christmas custom. When they were finished my husband hung them in their places and we just sat there soaking in the thought of the joy they will bring.

Our Christmas stockings are not costly, but they have great value. No matter what is inside, every year they are stuffed with tradition, belonging, celebration, and love.

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