When you and I were kids. That’s when Christmas traditions started. And it’s been up to us to keep them going. Well, if we liked the traditions, that is, such as having a Christmas stocking.
We can probably forget about the lump of coal in our stockings. I never did like that tradition and I’m really glad our parents were never mean enough to actually do that, the way some others did. Besides, the coal was really needed for the fireplace. It wasn’t a hated toy to be thrown around and broken up.
Anyway, how would Santa even know if we’d been bad or good? Santa doesn’t know everything, after all. If he did, he wouldn’t have brought me three brush-and-comb sets one year, when what I wanted was a “gold” locket! Silly old man.
We always had a stocking that was hung by the chimney with great care. And I mean a stocking, the kind of knee sock that real people could easily have worn. Now and then it was a Fair Isle pattern (for you knitters out there), but never was it made out of fake fur. Such fabric didn’t exist in the mid-20th century and I have to say, I’m glad it didn’t.
When times were especially hard in our household, our stockings were often my Dad’s real black socks that he wore to work inside his boots. I don’t know how Mum talked him into using them when they came out of the washer and had been line-dried, but there they were. Yes, they didn’t hold a lot of things but there weren’t a lot of things to put in them.
The first goodie to come out of a stocking every year was huge candy, a 9″ or longer stick of peppermint rock, as we called it. It didn’t ruin our teeth because we didn’t get a peppermint rock stick often enough to worry about that. In fact, it would last us a good two weeks because we had to lick it. Being an inch across, we couldn’t just bite it off, the way you can with the wimpier candy canes today.
There might have been a little bit of costume jewelry or a tiny doll for the girls, or a little toy car or an airplane for my brother when he came along. Maybe there would be a new pack of cards with bunnies or characters wearing frilly costumes. That was so we could politely play Old Maid or something equally exciting when older relatives came to visit.
We soon reached a huge Jaffa orange, the kind we only got at Christmas. We sort of knew that was in there by the bulge near the foot of the stocking. We acted surprised anyway and very pleased because we were! That kind of fruit was a rare treat that we looked forward to.
By the time we got to the toe of the stocking, it held a mixture of hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, and sometimes chestnuts to roast over the fire later in the day. Sometimes there was a separate basket of nuts for everyone, if it had been a “better” year.
I’ve tried to keep the tradition of Christmas stockings alive. It can be difficult to sneak the money for stocking-size gifts out of the grocery budget. And when I could, it’s been difficult to sneak them into the house without anyone seeing them ahead of time. A handbag only holds so much. Peeking spoils the fun when a favorite holiday tradition is about surprising people who have been guessing what’s inside a Christmas stocking.