When I was growing up, my family always went all-out celebrating Christmas and the holiday season. On Thanksgiving day, we had a huge meal with as much family there as possible, and then that weekend we would go out and cut our Christmas tree. Great fun was had decorating the tree and the house, setting up the garlands all over the living room, and twining the lights around the tree. Candy canes were hung on the tree along with the beautiful glass balls and hand-made ornaments, all to make the house festive for the season. The first of December saw my sister and I hanging up our calendars that had a piece of candy in each day's pocket so we could count down to the big day! But the best part was hanging my stocking and knowing when I woke up on Christmas morning, Santa Claus would have filled it up with all sorts of goodies! I couldn't wait to see what was there!
A few things were always in our stockings. An orange was a given, and I loved it when I got more than one. Hard candies were everywhere around our house the whole season, but I could bet there would be more that were just for me on Christmas morning! Candy canes were in each one, and there was always a great helping of winter's best mixed nuts. Then came the next things: Chocolate was there at times, and boy did I love that! Popcorn balls, too. I'd happily munch on those as I looked at the rest of the spoils of Santa's visit. Small toys were in my stocking every year. Some years I got things like yo-yos and card games. Others I got dolls. One year I got a small pop gun! And every once in a while, there would be some money in my stocking. But through it all, I wondered what other kids in other places would be waking up to that year.
In many European countries, I learned, it was traditional to find candy, fruits, small trinkets and money in your shoe that you'd left by the fireplace or door. But I also learned, children didn't get these on Christmas Eve/Day. They recieved gifts on December 5th or 6th! St. Nicholas's eve/day was a traditional day for children to find gifts in their shoes/stockings. If they found coal, then they'd have another 2-3 weeks to straighten up so that they would be able to find gifts and money in their stuff on Christmas.
One of my friends in the UK said she and her family would always get chocolate and a toothbrush in their stockings. Another friend said when she was growing up in Italy, she never got presents until Epiphany (January 5th) and then she hoped she got a sock full of candy from Befana. These things made me look up other Christmas traditions and traditional characters like Santa and Father Christmas, but still didn't find any new traditional stocking stuffers.
In fear for my life after the last 4 hours "going down the rabbit hole" looking for different holiday season traditional gifts, I'm going to end this article. I've learned about multiple different characters in different countries, discovered that the traditional Christmas season is just that: a whole season, stretching from the 5th of December past the 5th of January, and learned about the darker characters, like Belsnick (Belsnickel) and Krampus. But all in all, a top and a yoyo, candy and fruit, anticipated with a child-like enthusiasm will remain my fondest memories of my Christmas Stocking.