Christmas Stockings

It’s all my grandmother’s fault, really.

I don’t know quite when she started it, but many, many decades ago my grandmother, who was a beautiful and accomplished seamstress – if only to keep her own family frugally but very well clothed because money was tight – made Christmas stockings for the entire family. Every stocking is made of red felt with white-felt trim and each one bears the family member’s name as well as a number of lovely felt decorations, each slightly different and unique to its owner. My parents, my sister, my aunts, my uncles and every one of my cousins had their own stockings. Back in the 70s, when we all got together at my grandparents’ home for the holidays, our stockings used to cover every inch of my grandparents’ stairway banister. My own stocking is now dix decades old and although it is starting to look a little weathered, every single stitch remains intact.

When my children were born Nano (my grandmother’s name because I, the first grandchild, couldn’t pronounce her chosen name of ‘Nana’) was still living. Alas, she couldn’t find red felt anywhere at that time so she made a green-felt stocking for my son and a pink stocking for my daughter. When they were of school age, every time my kids looked at my mother’s stocking (now hanging, with our own, over Mom and Dad’s fireplace), they would burst into fits of giggles. Nano made it for Mom during a time when Dad was referring to Mom as his ‘Pet’ a popular – if rather sexist – term of endearment back in the 50s, when Mom and Dad met. In French, however, ‘pet’ means ‘fart’. The kids – who grew up speaking French and English – thought this was hilarious.

When my husband and I got married, to my great chagrin, my grandmother was no longer living. I have no skills when it comes to sewing and it was with regret that I quietly purchased him a store-bought facsimile that year. To my delight, however, my sister, who inherited Nano’s gift with a sewing machine, secretly made a beautiful red-felt stocking with my husband’s name on it and gave it to him that year for Christmas. She also made one for his – our – dog.

I still consider that – even more than our wedding – his official ‘welcome to the family’.

When we were little, it was Dad’s job to fill the stockings for the three of us, while Mom filled his. There wasn’t a lot of money in those years and I recall most of the stocking stuffers being very practical things; like a new toothbrush, a hairbrush and maybe a tiny toy or two. Having grown up with two siblings who were diabetic, Dad never included much candy but there was always at least one sweet thing for us to eat as well.

It was – and still is – my (and my sister’s) favourite part of the Christmas gift exchange.

On Christmas morning, my little sister and I – too excited to sleep – would be up well before the sun and the rule was that as long as we let Mom and Dad sleep in a bit, we were allowed to run into the living room and quietly check out the contents of our stockings. We both have lovely memories of those early, early Christmas mornings.

At some point in my teens, Mom took over the job of doing the stocking stuffers and I recall that as the years progressed, the contents became more elaborate, more plentiful and much more expensive: often overflowing and spilling rather alarmingly around each family member’s stocking. Mom and Dad were doing much better, financially, and Mom went a little hog wild as a result. My sister and I were both a little embarrassed at the bounty that always awaited us and although neither of us said anything to one another at the time, we found out many years later that we both used to quietly hide most of the contents away when our friends came to visit over the holidays. None of our friends seemed to have such abundance under their Christmas trees and we were both a little self-conscious about it.

At some point, I think Mom’s overzealousness must have started to feel more like a burden than a joy, to her. I know that she was spending much more on the stockings than on the ‘real’ gifts she also bought for each of us. I recall that when I would arrive home from university, she would be frazzled and cranky and asking me to help her wrap a lot of last-minute presents. As my sister and I got married and started families of our own; I’m pretty sure it came as a relief to her when we both took over filling our own nuclear family members’ stockings.

My favourite years for filling my own kids’ stockings were the years they were just starting out and living in their first apartments. They were learning to budget, learning to pay their own bills and they were so much more appreciative of the cost of well, everything. I filled their stockings with practical things such as underarm deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, socks and underwear. I would also include a roll or two of quarters for the laundry machines.

Yes, it all got a little costly but I budgeted well and I squirreled things away – including quarters – throughout the year. The problem with a system like that, however, is that sometimes, as December had once again rolled around and I would bring out all the ‘little’ things I had been setting aside, I was often little appalled at the breadth of ‘stuff’ I had managed to quietly accumulate over the course of a year.

For several years now, just like Mom all those years ago, I have been coming to the conclusion that I have – once again – gone ‘hog wild’. Since my husband and I got married, we have been doing much better, financially, and I started going a little overboard as a result. I am embarrassed to even admit that the stockings are never big enough and I always need a big bag – each! – for my children, their partners and my husband. It’s always overwhelming. It’s always over-the-top. It’s always a little embarrassing. And when I add it all up, it’s always really, really expensive.

Every year for a few years now, I have vowed I will tone things down but every year, I realise with dismay that I have gotten carried away again.

This year, I decided to actually figure out why.

It wasn’t until I had written this all down that I realised: I have been trying to re-capture a tradition that my Nano started; a tradition that I treasured as a little girl; a tradition she passed onto my parents and they passed onto me. A tradition I was supposed to pass on to my kids and let them continue.

Or not.

My kids and their life partners – I am proud to say – are minimalists. They are also resourceful and self-sufficient. If they need deodorant, or candy, or toothpaste, they go out and buy it. Yes, they need their Mom to be there for them but they no longer need for me to buy them deodorant. They are doing that just fine, all on their own. The Christmas stockings – while the kids have been appreciative – are not a ‘thing’ they have felt compelled to continue (and that’s okay).

This is the first time in a long time that I haven’t gone hog-wild. Because I took stock in time, this time. When I brought out my current stash, I realised I likely would have continued frantically picking up ‘little’ things right up until Christmas Eve. Instead, I decided to stop: in mid-November; before things got embarrassing. The sense of relief I felt was palpable.

Now that I really and truly understand where my over-the-topness comes from, I think I can gently and lovingly let the tradition go. I strongly suspect my kids will be relieved.

Nano’s stockings will still make beautiful decorations.

And precious memories…

Patti Moore Wilson/©




Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

17 thoughts on “Christmas Stockings”

  1. Ah, the stockings! The “miscellaneous” part of Christmas. There might be a coloring book, a few walnuts, a candy bar… It served as something to distract you while your parents were waking up. I enjoy your write-ups on stuff like this because it is really relatable, Patti.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh I’m glad to hear that, Charlie 💕 Most of the year, I’m all about being environmentally friendly, avoiding consumerism by buying secondhand whenever possible and trying to keep my carbon footprint to a minimum and then every Christmas (except this year 🙂) I have contradicted myself and confused my kids with all the mixed messaging 🙄

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The kids were actually quite discreet about it, not wanting to hurt their grandmother’s feelings. I think it was a few years before they told me why they always got the giggles when we would arrive at my parents’ house and would go hang up the stockings we had brought with us 🙂 And yes, my sister wouldn’t want me to shout it from the rooftops (she’s very shy) but I think she’s pretty awesome 🙂 Glad you enjoyed this 🙏💕

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful Christmas story! Have no regrets about going overboard or not. Your family will have great memories for years to come. Love the red felt stockings – that’s a tradition to keep. I knew my husband was accepted into the family when he got gifts of underwear or socks!

    Liked by 1 person

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