Here are my sister and I (I'm the short one on the left) with our Christmas stockings, I'd guess around 1984 or so? Dropstitch superfans may remember that I used this picture before when I shared my sister's school diary entry from Christmas 1986.
Stockings have always been my favourite thing about Christmas Day, with dinner coming a close second. My sister and I managed to wangle stockings from Santa for much longer than seems fair or appropriate by using a cunning argument - if the thought of stopping them was ever mooted, I would object that Kerry had had stockings for more years than me and then Kerry would object that it wasn't fair for me to get one and her not to get one. It was a watertight argument that Santa just could not wriggle out of... until my pesky sister left the country! Now that Santa (finally) doesn't visit me any more, I have Dulcie's stocking to look forward to instead... if I manage to get it crocheted in time to hang up on Christmas Eve. Pressure!
The following examination of the "humble" (ha!) Christmas stocking is taken from an article by Keith Waterhouse that was published in Reader's Digest, probably in the late 1970s, I would think. My dad sent my sister and I a scanned copy of it a wee while back. As children, our stockings did follow this line of thinking, especially the strict guidelines re the "heel-and-toe department"... I thought it was worth sharing. Enjoy!
"What the true Christmas stocking is, we will now go into detail. We are dealing with magic here, and must be meticulous about our specifications.
"The true Christmas stocking is not a short sock, or a pair of tights, or a dumping ground for ballpoint pens. Nor, for that matter, is it a shop-bought plastic mesh containing nothing but munch bars. It must be knee-length, constructed of wool, and filled to the brim with good things. It has got to be nothing less than a cornucopia of the five senses.
"First, it must satisfy the sense of touch by having many bumps and knobbly bits that may be felt in the dark by small fingers. Then it must satisfy the sense of sight by containing shiny things in bright colours that will dance and glitter by torchlight.
"It must satisfy the sense of hearing by emitting a squeaking noise when squeezed and a rattling noise when shaken. It must satisfy the sense of taste by containing, in the heel-and-toe department, a red apple, an orange wrapped in silver paper, a small quantity of nuts and a bag of chocolate pennies. These items are essential. Without them you have not got an authentic Christmas stocking, only a cylindrical parcel.
"Near the top of the stocking there should be other rations which the junior treasure-hunter may nibble while the exploration gets under way. They may consist of sugar mice, gingerbread men or marzipan pigs, but they may not consist of munch bars.
"Now we will deal with the sense of smell. This is very important, for the ideal stocking must have the smell of Christmas. This, as I’m sure you remember from your own childhood, is a heady bouquet compounded of the scent of orange peel, marzipan and chocolate mingling with the pungent odour of painted tin.
"There are still plenty of corner shops that sell tin toys – clockwork cats that scurry across the lino, tin Catherine wheels that give out a rainbow of sparks, tin frogs that make a loud clicking noise when pressed between the fingers. If you cannot get tin, get wood; there is still nothing wrong with an old-fashioned yo-yo. But plastic toys, which have no aroma to speak of, have no business in a Christmas stocking. To earn its place in that woolly cave of delights a toy must be a chunky, solid object that feels satisfactorily heavy when handled, and which smells new and exciting when sniffed at.
"A boy, of course, should have a toy trumpet or a mouth organ, a girl should have a small painted doll, and both must have a new torch by which to examine their booty. There will still be plenty of room for completely useless fripperies such as paper fans, Chinese lanterns and cardboard snowmen.
"You may think that your children are too old or too sophisticated for such simple joys. I promise you that they are not. There is nothing on Earth to compare with the taste of a sugar mouse eaten at dawn on Christmas morning, and no electric train set or new bicycle will quite match the pleasure of a Christmas stocking that has been filled with thought and care.
"What you are giving, you see, is love. And it is the taste, the sight, the feel, the smell and the sounds of love that will always be found in the perfect Christmas stocking."