My parents made a point of keeping this tradition with each passing year, no matter their economic and financial state. The only difference in gifts found in our Christmas stockings on Christmas morning was the amount and type.
Tougher years consisted of the little LifeSavers booklet, consisting of ten different flavored rolls of LifeSavers, and a hand-made card. Other years consisted of the same plus an assortment of candy and some sort of brain teaser/puzzle gift.
Our stockings were the first gifts opened before going to Christmas services at our church.
I looked forward to enjoying the LifeSavers and assortment of candy during that morning service – back before they did Christmas Eve services. My memory can still taste the pineapple flavored LifeSavers even though I haven’t had them in quite some time – no need for excess sugar. Come to think of it, I probably couldn’t stomach it now, but that’s beside the point.
There’s a popular legend as to how the stocking tradition got started:
Long ago there was a poor man who lived with his three daughters. It was tradition that the father would offer a monetary diary to a future son-in-law when his daughter married. Since he was poor, he had no money to offer. A man named Saint Nicholas was passing through the village when he heard about this. He wanted to help, but knew the man would never accept charity. He decided to help in secret. He waited until it was night and crept through the chimney. He had three bags of gold coins which was placed in the stockings of the three girls, which had been hung on the mantel to dry. When they woke and found the money, they were so happy. The girls were able to got married and this led to the tradition of hanging stockings on the mantle.
Unfortunately, I currently don’t have a mantle nor do I have a chimney. It’s a good thing I’ve never believed in Santa… I currently use my entertainment center and/or the DVD case. They work just as well.
My Christmas stocking hasn’t ever had anything in it.
Instead, I use it as a reminder of all of the non-material things I could fill it with: acts of kindness, developing virtue and character….the spirituality of keeping Christ in Christmas (not to mention, all year round – you’ll often hear/read that line from me).
“I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” – Jesus, Matthew 25.40
The month of December is filled with more than just the normal holiday hustle and bustle. People give in December more than any other time of the year (not including yearly community service campaigns at work – this is different). Honestly, I find that rather sad. Shouldn’t we give to those less fortunate all year round?
I encourage you to look for ways to help, no matter the time of year. Start now and continue into next year. Give and serve in both big and small ways , in all ways – financially, spiritually, talent-wise, time, etc. I’ve discovered that the most valuable gift you can give is your time – you can’t get that back – but the blessings, when time is used wisely, are worth it. And thank God for the gift of Jesus – how can you serve him today?