Today is the 21st day of the Virtual Advent Tour, hosted by my best friend Sprite at Sprite Writes. Every year the Tour reminds me to think about what I love most about the holidays, to be grateful for the gifts of the season, and to broaden my mind by learning about other people’s traditions. I’m excited to be taking part in the Tour for the first time this year.
One of the things I love most about the holiday season is digging into my boxes of Christmas decorations and reacquainting myself with certain old and cherished belongings. I know that Christmas isn’t supposed to be about about things, but some things help me connect with Christmassy feelings of love and joy, and today I’m going to tell you about two of them.
My mother crocheted these magical Christmas stockings for my brother and me when we were small children. She made his first and mine a few years later. Having been crocheted at different times, they are not exactly the same. One is noticeably larger than the other, so they are not a “perfect” pair. That seems to bother my mother. “I guess my stitches changed size,” she said to me when I asked about how she had made them. She lamented that she’d never been that good at crochet, comparing her own skills to those of other women in her family, who had been able to produce remarkably delicate doilies and whatnot.
She’s not giving herself or the stockings enough credit. I doubt there’s ever been such a thing as a magical doily. Meanwhile, the magic of these Christmas stockings is still going strong decades later. I actually feel a little guilty for having taken my brother’s stocking to pass along to one of my children. I asked my mom if she thought that was unfair, and she replied, “Well, you asked for it and he didn’t.” It pays to ask for the things that we want!
You might wonder what, aside from nostalgia, makes these stockings magical. Their greatest magical power is their stretchiness. These stockings can accommodate any number of gifts in all sorts of shapes. They can be filled until they’re huge and misshapen, and when emptied they shrink down to their normal size and shape as if nothing had ever happened to them. If you’ve ever read Jan Brett’s The Mitten, a story from Ukrainian folklore about a lost mitten that becomes home to assorted woodland animals, it’s a lot like that. I’ve never tried squeezing a bear into either stocking, because I hardly have time during the holidays for bear wrestling, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I could.
The stockings bring so much joy on Christmas morning. I remember how, when we were children, my brother and I would creep out of our rooms Christmas morning. It was still dark outside, and chilly, and the house was silent but for the peculiar noises that only come out at night. It might have been scary if it weren’t for the light of the Christmas tree to draw us through the darkness. Our stockings were laid out in front of the fireplace. We always spent what felt like hours looking through and playing with our new treasures. This was part of the magic of Christmas, and we believed in it so completely. It was not only Santa’s gift to us, but also to our parents. Without the stocking stuffers to keep us busy, we would have woken our parents up even earlier.
Now Santa fills the stockings for my children, who are forming their own magical Christmas memories. My parents visit us for the holiday, so my mother is here to see the stockings filled. She is still amazed at how they stretch to whatever shape and size is needed. We bond over it, which is also a kind of magic.
And that’s why these Christmas stockings are two of My Favorite Things.