Keeping the Holidays Simple: The Joy of Christmas Stockings

A Christmas without stockings would be the worst Christmas ever.

It would be sadder even than Scrooge’s Christmas future without Tiny Tim.

Luckily, I don’t have to face that tragedy, because my sisters and I keep the Christmas stocking tradition alive.

three christmas stockings
Three Simple Christmas Stockings by Liz Aragon //CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

An abundance of treasure in a sweat sock

Mom kept it simple. She understood that it didn’t matter so much what the stockings contained. It was more about the fun of discovery as we drew out each item.

Nothing about the stockings was extravagant, because we lived on a tight budget. In fact, when we were very young Mom didn’t even bother with store-bought stockings. Instead, she simply used Daddy’s white sweat socks.

On Christmas morning, after we had opened our other gifts, we dove into the stockings.

We never up-ended them and dumped out the contents. That would be cheating. We pulled out the gifts one at a time, pacing ourselves, none of us wanting to finish first.

There were foil-wrapped chocolates, candy canes, yoyos and little puzzles, nuts in the shell, and at the very bottom an orange, which filled out the toe of the stocking.

Child's yoyo
Child’s yoyo by Panda Free Clipart

While we were engrossed in playing with toys and sneaking chocolates, Mom made breakfast.

Indulging in simple luxuries

Today my sisters and I delight in surprising each other and Mom with goodies we aren’t likely to buy for ourselves:

  • Shortbread made with real butter.
  • Chocolate truffles.
  • Warm, fuzzy socks.

We also aim to make each other laugh. We seek out silly ornaments for the tree, refrigerator magnets with sarcastic slogans (Anne Taintor is a favorite), and gag gifts like those candy containers that dispense chocolate reindeer poop. (Yes, it’s disgusting — that’s the point!)

Recapturing childish glee

The greatest thing about Christmas stockings is that they allow my sisters and I to be kids again. To play, to tease, to eat too much candy, and to laugh until, red-faced and breathless, we collapse in a merry heap on the floor. Even in those years when we can’t celebrate together, we’re connected by this tradition.

I don’t remember a specific gift from my childhood, but I do remember the stockings.
Stuffed with everyday treasures, they were the best part of Christmas morning.
They still are today.

Candy Cane by Tanemori via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.1 jp

What about you? What holiday traditions from your childhood do you still enjoy?

P.S. Don’t tell my sisters, but this year they can expect to see this in their stockings!

Troll doll
Toll Doll by Cheryl via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Will you still be my friend?

We haven’t talked in ages, and it’s all my fault.

My excuse – I was thesising!

Don’t be mad. I was working on my thesis. But I received my Master’s degree in December 2015 so I’m done. Do you wanna hang out now?

my diploma
It’s official!

My thesis is titled The Use of Facebook by Older Adults. I conducted interviews and observations of a wonderful, generous group of folks over age 65 and analyzed the results. The project was a challenge, one I wasn’t sure I was up to. As it turns out, I made things harder for myself than they needed to be. (Shocker!)

I discuss this in a guest blog post I was invited to write for the Thesis & Dissertation Office at Northern Illinois University. I thought I’d share it here so you’d have an idea what I’ve been up to.

Guest Blog — Connections Matter

Thanks for giving me another chance. Now let’s talk about you!

Confessions of an HSP: Decluttering

I really enjoyed this post from a fellow blogger on decluttering.

Confessions of an HSP: Decluttering.

She illuminates the connection between our environment and our moods, productivity, and well-being. I hope you find this as insightful and inspiring as I did. Yesterday I worked on decluttering the garage. In just one hour I managed to go through two whole boxes of stuff. Some of it I donated to Goodwill. Some of it I put away in the house. And some of it I just threw out. More of it than I care to admit, really!

I’ve come to realize that instead of being a once-in-a-blue-moon event, this taking stock and letting go of stuff is a cycle. As autumn gets rolling I feel an urge to go sort through my closet. To every thing there is a season…


Why is there so much stuff?!

I moved recently from an apartment to a townhouse and the process overwhelmed me. How had I managed to fit all this stuff into a one-bedroom apartment? Some of it held sentimental value, of course, but much of it was just taking up space. A look at my bookshelves provided insight into the larger problem. The shelves were crowded with volumes I rarely looked at:

  • collections of crochet patterns, which I now prefer to browse for online;
  • Shakespeare’s plays (from the days when I could afford a subscription to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater);
  • gardening books (not useful for apartment dwellers);
  • user manuals for software and devices I no longer owned;
  • textbooks from my (long ago) days as an undergrad;
  • books I felt I should read but probably never would.

I walked past these shelves every day but I wasn’t actually seeing what was on them. I had accumulated much of this clutter by default, simply by not paying attention to what I had and what I really needed. Broadening my gaze to the rest of the apartment, I found the same problem everywhere: too much stuff. I was reminded of comedian George Carlin’s classic routine about stuff:

I felt better after watching George’s routine, but I still needed a plan, a system, to make sense of the chaos. I didn’t have a system of my own, so I decided to borrow someone else’s. I went to the Flylady blog, written by Marla Cilley. Flylady is a guru for those of us who need help with organizing and cleaning, cheerfully reminding us to take baby steps and learn to do a little bit every day. Her page on moving offered some liberating advice: If you don’t love it, don’t move it.

To get rid of clutter, or “decluttering” as she calls it, Flylady recommends getting 3 boxes or bins (laundry baskets work well for this) and using them to sort things into 3 piles:

  1. Put away
  2. Give away
  3. Throw away

I started with the books. At first, her system seemed harsh. How could I let go of things I had owned for decades? But gradually, as space opened up on the bookshelves, I started to feel better. I hadn’t realized how much all this stuff weighed me down. Letting go made me feel lighter. Freer. Relieved. I continued moving through the apartment, letting go of things I no longer needed or wanted. I regularly donated boxes of clothes, books, and household goods to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I liked to think about the people I might be helping this way. I reminded myself how lucky I was to be in a position to help others. Interesting the way that giving often leads to gratitude.

I’d like to claim that I thoroughly simplified my life in that one move, but I didn’t. I held on to many things out of fear that I might need them in some far-off future. When I started unpacking at the new place I was dismayed by how much I had schlepped with me. So I got out 3 boxes, sorted things into piles and made daily trips to Goodwill. I’ve learned that living this way is a process, and a never-ending one. New stuff will always find its way into my home, so I need to make uncluttering a regular habit. When I buy a new book, which I am bound to do, I need to get rid of an old one.

I’ve found several rewards for my efforts. Dusting has gotten easier. I have more room to display the items I really treasure, like the brass samovar from my uncle’s travels. I don’t dread going into my closet to search for something to wear. And I have a place now that feels not just tidier, but more spacious, more serene, more welcoming. More like home.