I do think I’m making all this sound a lot grander then it actually is. It’s just that I’ve been filling children’s stockings for 16 years now and in that time I’ve gotten a feel for what works for our family and what doesn’t. As I noticed a certain pattern emerging over the time, I found that just being able to mentally plug in something to fit each category really simplified things for me, so that I don’t feel like I’m starting from scratch with five empty stockings each year.
Now in our household the stockings are ostensibly filled by Santa Claus, though at the moment no one is in a very Santa place; fickle, jaded little creatures. I jest! I jest! Really either way is fine. And we only started doing the Santa thing at all at their request. But that’s the context that this tradition was born of. The stocking gifts tend to be the only ones we wrap in paper. It seemed unlikely that Santa would use the gift bags obviously made by me, therefore… Plus there is something undeniably more exciting about tearing the wrapping off a package compared to opening a bag. And since all other gifts, at all other points in the year are wrapped in play silks or fabric bags, that little bit of paper is an extra special treat.
Each child’s stocking gifts are wrapped in a specific color, every year without fail; one child’s in silver, another in gold, green, red, blue. That way, even if everyone dumps the contents on the floor and it all gets mixed up, everyone knows without a doubt which gifts belong to whom. Also, as you will see below, sometimes not all of the stocking contents actually fit in the stocking. Which seems counterintuitive, I know. But you will understand better in a moment. In that case the ill-fitting gift is placed under the stocking and again the color-coded wrapping saves on confusion. Also, it’s just a sweet little detail!
On to the formula: candy canes, gum, a deck of cards, art or craft supplies, a beautiful book and an optional practical item (as needed).
Candy Canes- I know of two companies that make big, beautiful, old-fashioned candy canes- worthy of pride of place, hanging out over the stocking’s edge- without the use of corn syrup or artificial dyes. Hammond’s “Natural” line of candy canes come in a wide variety of flavors and Giambri’s (a little smaller and more moderately priced) come in both traditional mint and lemon. Both companies still make other candy canes with more questionable ingredients, so be extra careful to purchase from their “all-natural” lines. Yes, they are still sticks of pure sugar, but it’s Christmas.
For tiny ones we substitute fruit leather. For tiny-tiny ones fresh fruit.
Gum- B-Fresh Gum. A very rare treat. This one is sugar free, corn free, gluten free, etc. Has no artificial ingredients or preservatives and is actually a source of water soluble calcium and b-12.
Same substitutions as above for wee folks.
A Deck of Card- Our family plays a lot of card games, usually over meals. Cards lead a rough existence here! In the event that we feel that enough have survived the year we make a substitution here. I think that happened once. Most often it’s just a deck of cheap regular old playing cards as they suit our needs just fine. Occasionally someone will get another sort of card game entirely, such as Skip-Bo, Uno, or Quiddler (one of our all-time favorite games!).
Art or Craft- This can be anything from a pack of window crayons to a ball of yarn to a set of woodworking files depending on the age and interests of the child. This is one area where the size and shape of an object might not conform to stocking dimensions. So while one child’s colored pencils might fit and another’s carving knife is just fine, the third’s lap loom might need to rest below the stocking. I prefer to get them something from each category, and from that whatever really suits the child, rather than just something that will fit.
A Beautiful Book- Not just any book, but a truly special one, chosen with great care that hopefully really speaks to the child and meets them where they are at. There are few greater gifts. I have a personal rule that I only buy them books that are either not available through our interlibrary loan system or which I know they will read many, many times over. Board books and many novels fit nicely in most stockings, but picture books or say a beautifully illustrated, hardbound collection of poetry, do not. So this another area where some of the books may be in stockings and some may not, since I want to give everyone a book no matter what phase they are in.
Miscellaneous (optional)- Some years there might be a little something else, usually something practical. This year for example, everyone is getting a small wooden comb because they all keep borrowing Mairi’s which is now broken and in need of replacing!
A Note on doll stockings:
This one is kind of the wild card. Many, many moons ago, on an adorable impulse, the older boys and I sewed a set of stockings for their beloved Waldorf dolls and the doll stockings became something of a family tradition.
Some ides for filling doll stockings:
- shoes, hats or any other doll accessories
- small crystals or gemstones
- little gnomes or smaller dolls to act as the dolls’ dolls
- a small wooden or needle felted animal, a little teddy bear
- a tiny house plant
- a little edible treat (you would be amazed at how giving most dolls can be, they almost always are willing to share with their keepers!)
- dolly dress-ups: doll sized fairy wings, a wee gnome hat, a cape, etc
While I used to lean towards the fancier things on this list, these days it tends to be something very simple, like a crystal or bit of food.