A dozen years ago, when we first began weeding Santa out of Christmas in favor of more meaningful and Christ-centered traditions, one of the traditions we had to take a good look at was our Christmas Stockings.
At first consideration, the stocking itself brings to mind stories full of sugar plum dreams and carefully hung stockings awaiting Santa’s midnight arrival. But upon further inspection, the idea roots back to a tale of great love and generosity. Saint Nicholas (the story goes) snuck up to the house of a poor family one night, tossing money through the window of the house to provide dowry for the daughters. The money supposedly landed in a shoe or stocking that was drying by the fire, and the next morning the family rejoiced at the anonymous and wonderful gift.
Whether this story is accurate or not, it’s generally considered truth that Saint Nicholas was in fact a cheerful giver. He frequently gave what he had to help the poor and needy. And why? BECAUSE HE LOVED GOD.
It is Saint Nicholas’ love for God and others that led me to keep and adapt the tradition of the Christmas stocking.
Our First Christmas Stockings
Christmas 2001: my oldest daughter’s second Christmas, the one where she was big enough to be excited about the things under the tree. I remember telling my mom that I wanted to fill her Christmas stocking to overflowing, that I wanted it to be a treasure chest of goodies. My desire to bless my daughter with good things wasn’t bad (it’s even kind of biblical in the right context,) but my motivation left something to be desired. The truth is that I was feeling the pinch of job loss combined with the desire to create the illusion of splendor. A handful of years later, when revisiting the idea of the stocking, I found a better motivation.
My desire to bless my children with ANY type of good thing should flow from love, from God, and not from any material desire. In the same way that Saint Nicholas used his time and money to meet needs and provide for others, we should do the same. So while there will be a certain amount of fun and frivolous items included, a large majority of what my kids find in their Christmas stockings is useful, needed, or helpful.
Does that sound boring?
I promise you, it isn’t!
Don’t Make it Boring
I put a lot of thought into choosing stocking stuffers for each family member, considering both their love language and their current interests/needs. I do spend more money this way; it would certainly be cheaper to fill the stockings with a lot of cheap junk from the Dollar Tree. But that is a waste of my time and money, it’s not good stewardship, and that stuff just adds to the clutter anyway. No, that’s filling a stocking for the sake of filling it.
Instead, my artsy kids will receive more/new drawing pencils and erasers. My guitar players might get guitar picks. My techy guys like to get batteries, chargers, and duct tape. The girls will probably receive new ponytail holders and bobby pins (because those things are notorious for going missing!) There’s a joke in my house that Christmas morning is when you get your new hairbrushes and combs– though I threw them off last year when I didn’t include those. =p
But of course there will some favorite fun things, too: a favorite lip gloss, gum, face mask, or treat. I like to shop on Wish for little drawing journals or notebooks, laptop stickers, and other fun things. Five Below is another great place to pick up fun teenage stocking stuffers that the kids will actually use.
>> For a more in-depth look at filling the stockings with purpose, check out the next post: “No Junk” Stocking Stuffers Your Family Will Love.
A Favorite Tradition
I recently learned just how much my teenage kids have loved going through their Christmas stockings on Christmas morning. I didn’t realize it was one of their favorite things and was a little surprised to learn this. Last week my 16 year old was telling some friends that it’s one of her very favorite things because we all sit around as a family, go through our stockings together, oohing and ahhing at all the good things they needed, wanted, and are happy to have.
Do you see what I see?
It would be easy to get excited about a flashy toy, an expensive gift, or the latest technology but it’s quite another thing to cherish thoughtful, needed things. Through the tradition of the stocking, I’m able to genuinely bless my kids and make them feel loved with both fun and function. More importantly, my kids feel not only blessed but grateful and thankful. Is this not the real spirit of Christmas? To love others because we love God, to meet needs as Christ did, and to bless as God blesses us?
Of course, pulling a can of shaving cream out of a Christmas stocking doesn’t by itself point others to God. I remind my kids that the reason we do the stockings is to follow the example that Saint Nicholas gave us. Our giving and loving should extend far beyond Cristmas Day. The stockings are just a reminder of the kind of life that we are supposed to live as children of God.
What We Can Learn From Saint Nicholas
We love because He first loved us.1 John 4:19
We love because He first loved us. I would argue that we also give, because He first gave to us; we care because He first cared for us; we help because He first helped us. It is who God is that enables us to truly love and care for others.
It’s my prayer that our Christmas holidays will be full of the love of Jesus. May you see God, and the evidence of God, everywhere you look. May your traditions, your giving, your serving, and even your fun remind you that Christmas isn’t about anything this material world offers but about everything our heavenly Father offers instead.
God bless you, and Merry Christmas!
For more information about Saint Nicholas:
- Saint Nick Vs. Santa Claus – Classic Housewife
- From Saint Nick to Santa Clause – National Geographic
- Saint Nicholas Biography – Biography.com
- Who Is Saint Nicholas? – StNicholasCenter.Org
- Who Was Saint Nicholas? – The Gospel Coalition
Photo Credit: Brooks Rice on Unsplash