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The Stockings Were Hung

December 15, 2013

Balanced Gift GivingAt this time of year, it’s almost impossible not to become overwhelmed by the hoopla surrounding Christmas and all that it entails (Buy! Buy! Buy! Spend! Spend! Spend! More! More! More!) I try very hard to keep it all in perspective – buying only for those in my immediate family, keeping (for the most part) to the lists they provide, and sticking to a (fairly) strict budget. Balance is important – the boys get the same number and ‘dollar value’ of presents each year, including the usual socks, pajamas, requested items of clothing, and one ‘big’ gift, plus miscellaneous smaller objects tucked into their stockings (candy, puzzles, games, a toothbrush, and at least one small Lego set each – they still ‘compete’ to see who can build theirs the quickest, even though they’re 32 and 27!) I do the same for their (long time) girlfriends; the gifts are arranged ‘equitably’ by the tree (gifts for son #1 and his girlfriend on the left; presents for son #2 and his girlfriend on the right).

StockingsThe boys’ stockings were handmade by a friend of mine many years ago (she originally made them for me and my then-husband, but since we already had stockings, I fortuitously tucked them away); I embroidered the boys’ names on them myself. When they moved out, they chose to leave their stockings behind so that I could continue to fill them every year (I assume they have alternate stockings at their current domiciles). They’re a fair size and hold a reasonable number of items; somehow I’ve always managed to buy ‘just enough’ to fill them each year. My husband had never had a stocking (it wasn’t something his family did when he was young) so I bought him one the first Christmas we were together and painted his name on it. It is also a reasonable size (it can hold a can of beer, a couple of DVDs, two pairs of [heavy] socks, a pack of underwear, a magazine or two, and some small tools).

My StockingMy stocking, on the other hand, is very small.  I’ve had it as long as I can remember. It is made of red felt, and has an image of Santa and some toys, along with the words ‘Merry Christmas’, painted in white on the front. It also has my name embroidered on it. My sister has the same stocking, with her name on it. I’m not quite sure what year we got them (probably 1957 or 1958), but I do know they were a ‘give away’ item one year when we went to visit Santa Claus at Eaton’s in Toronto (back then, towns like ours didn’t have department stores or malls; if you wanted to see Santa in person, you had to go to Eaton’s Toyland in ‘The City’). While we were telling Santa what we wanted, my mother gave our names to a lady who was sitting at a nearby sewing machine; she stitched our names on the stockings. We’ve both used them ever since.

Christmas 1960

Christmas, 1960. That’s me at the back with my precious ballerina doll. My sister got her first Barbie doll that year; my brother got a dump truck.

When we were little, we generally found the same items tucked into our stockings each year – an orange at the bottom, two or three pairs of underpants, a Jersey Milk chocolate bar, some bath salts or powder, and a candy cane. Other gifts – a new pair of flannel pajamas, some tights (we called them ‘leotards’) or socks, maybe a hat or earmuffs or mittens, a board game or puzzle or paper doll set, and one ‘special’ gift from Santa (for me that was usually a doll) – were either wrapped and put under the tree, or (in the case of our gift from Santa) left (unwrapped) in our own ‘special place’ in the living room (my sister’s gifts were always on the right end of the couch; mine were at the left; my brother’s were put on Mom’s rocking chair). We didn’t expect much and we were grateful for what we got. Christmas was certainly much simpler back then!

Giant StockingThe other day when I was doing some shopping, I saw a 60” stocking for sale (for $24.95). I’m not sure exactly what you’d put in a stocking that size, but it seemed like a serious case of overkill to me.  Have people really gotten so greedy that they would expect someone to fill five feet of stocking with ‘stuff’ on Christmas morning? How sad!

I prefer my tiny little stocking (even if the only thing my husband can find that ‘fits’ into it is a box of After Eight mints). It reminds me of those simpler Christmas mornings – a long, long time ago, before I was on … the other side of 55.

Visiting Santa 1958

My sister and I visiting Santa Claus at Eaton’s Toyland in Toronto (1958)

  1. Margie permalink
    January 7, 2014 10:37 am

    I loved your story, Margo. We simplified Christmas to the nth degree this year – we did the Snowbird thing. We won’t get back to the cold country until February and by then the Christmas hoopla will be gone and we’ll have a nice simple get together with our family!

    • January 7, 2014 10:58 am

      How I envy you, Margie. I would love to be somewhere warm right now (as the wind chill dips to -40 today). Enjoy!

  2. December 17, 2013 9:44 am

    Beautiful post and I love that your boys still get Lego sets! Merry Christmas!

    • December 17, 2013 10:34 am

      I think I’ll be buying them Lego until the end of my days! Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  3. December 16, 2013 11:21 am

    Loved your photos!! Oh, this post took me back to my childhood Christmas too! I had a stocking just like yours but I have no idea what became of it as it was left behind at my folks’ house after I married. I fill my kids stockings still too (at the ages of 31, 28, and 25) and their spouses. For me, it’s more fun to find little treasures for the stockings than buying the other gifts.

    • December 16, 2013 11:56 am

      I’m so glad I kept my stocking. I threw away far too many ‘precious things’ when I was moving here and there. I’ve kept a lot of things the boys will (hopefully) cherish when they’re grown (they’re tucked in giant Rubbermaid containers in the crawlspace). I’ve found that the older I get, the more appreciative I am of the little things that bring back fond memories.

  4. December 16, 2013 11:06 am

    I enjoyed reading this. It’s always fun reading about other people’s Christmas traditions. Merry Christmas.

  5. December 15, 2013 5:10 pm

    I love this! Twenty years ago would you never have been able to convince me I’d be one pining for the way things were when I was a kid, but the older I get, the more often I feel that way – because so many things were simpler and richer.

    • December 15, 2013 6:55 pm

      It’s amazing how things from our past seem so much better in hindsight. I know I long for ‘simpler times’ far more often now than I did ten or twenty years ago!

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