I love learning about different families’ Christmas traditions, and I’ve found over the years that one of the areas of greatest variation involves stockings. Some families hang their stockings on the mantel, while others place them along the stair banister. Some children unpack their stockings on Christmas morning along with the presents under the tree, while others dive into the stocking goodies on Christmas Eve. Some parents fill their children’s stockings with toiletries and other fun but necessary items (think: glittery pencils for school and a yummy flavor of toothpaste), while others go entirely playful (silly putty and matchbox cars for the win).
In all the variety that I’ve enjoyed learning about, my main takeaway is this: you can’t go wrong! I’ve never met a child who wasn’t eager to tell me about their family’s stocking traditions and been more than ready to dig into their next one come Christmastime. Stockings — be they knit, felted, embroidered or a good-old-fashioned sock — are delightful.
One of my family’s favorite stocking-related traditions is to recount the story of St. Nicholas as we hang our stockings each year. St. Nicholas, an early Christian bishop in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) during the Roman Empire, was known for his generosity, his kindness, his love for children, and his care for those in need. One popular story about St. Nicholas tells us that he heard about a poor man with three daughters who were unable to marry because they had no dowry, and therefore were likely to be sold into slavery. Secretly, St. Nicholas came to their aid by throwing three bags of gold through an open window into the family’s home. Legend has it that they bags landed in stockings that had been left before the fire to dry. Behold, the origin of hanging stockings above the fireplace.
In addition to honoring the spirit of St. Nicholas by telling his story as we hang stockings, we also use the occasion to decide as a family how we would like to serve others throughout the season. And then, on Christmas day, we pay tribute to the deeply Christian root of hanging stockings by including some sort of religious gift in each stocking.
Here are a few ideas for Catholic gifts to include in stockings:
A Christmas Ornament
Is there a more classic stocking stuffer than a Christmas ornament that can move directly from stocking to tree? I think not. These Emmanuel and Joy to the World ornaments are handmade of real wood in Laurel, Mississippi, and their classic simplicity will mix well with any sort of Christmas tree decor that you have going on, whether it’s a classic red and gold style or a handmade-in-pre-school look.
A Small Piece of Jewelry
A bracelet or a pair of earrings is a great stocking stuffer for an older daughter. If I gave one of our daughters this Our Lady of Guadalupe Bracelet, I’d include with it a printed sheet or prayer card telling the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. These Milagro Heart Studs represent love, healing and gratitude and they are beautiful and dainty — perfect for small ears.
A Prayer Card
We tuck prayer cards in our children’s stockings every year because they are lightweight (let’s face it: heft is a primary attribute to consider when filling often-flimsy stockings!) and simple reminders to pray, as well as to look to the community of saints for inspiration and intercession.
A Decade Rosary
A decade rosary is such a useful and convenient prayer tool, small enough to fit in a pocket, backpack pouch, or the palm of a hand. An added bonus is that, for little ones, praying a decade of the rosary feels so much less daunting than praying an entire rosary. My husband and I have found that praying a decade of the rosary has been an excellent way to introduce our children to the rosary and so we’ve stuffed stockings with rosaries like this one and this one more than once.
While the Jesse Tree is an Advent tradition containing 25 symbols that are recognized December 1st through 25th, I wouldn’t hold back from including this beautiful sticker kit in a stocking for a child to enjoy all at once, on Christmas day, or to tuck away and enjoy the following Advent season. The kit includes an 8 x 10 tree as well as 25 stickers (including a ladder, a lamb, a camel, and many more) and explanations and scripture references for each of the symbols.
These beautiful scripture memory cards will make your children excited to choose favorite Bible verses and work on memorizing them. The cards contain a line for the Scripture reference as well as space for writing out the verse, and the size (4 x 4) makes them easy to tuck in a back pocket or use as a bookmark.
Tell me that my daughters and I are not the only people who could receive an endless supply of beautiful notebooks, notepads, and other stationary supplies and never feel bored with the gift? There is just something about paper products that brings me into a happy place, and my children have inherited the gene. This notepad, which contains a lovely depiction of Mother Mary with child Jesus, would fit perfectly in a stocking.
Unlike the prayer cards, a candle is a bit heavy for a stocking. But trust me, I’ve done it before with candles of this size and it works, fitting perfectly in the foot of a stocking. While candles likely wouldn’t interest younger children, my older daughters love having candles of their own to burn in their rooms (and we’ve had plenty conversations about fire safety, so I trust them with this). The grapefruit vanilla rose scent of this Proverbs 3 candle is heavenly!
Along with one or two of these items, we’ll be filling our stockings this year with candy canes, cozy socks, art supplies and a few other odds and ends. How about you? What are your stocking traditions? I’d love to hear in the comments below!