In my own growing up, Christmas stockings were extremely important. My maternal grandfather who lived with us was born in 1892.
He kept a low-profile in the running of our household, but when it came to Christmas stockings, he took charge and was adamant that my brother and I each have a stocking with an orange in the toe, followed by an apple, an assortment of mixed nuts in the shell, the brightly colored hard Christmas candy like ribbon, peppermint sticks, and a banana.
My mother explained that this was very important to him because as a child this was usually all my grandfather and his siblings received on Christmas morning. It was an important tradition he wanted passed down.
According to history the stockings go back to Amsterdam where children leave their shoes out hoping for goodies, but there were three very poor daughters who had no dowry and thus could not marry; St. Nick threw bags of gold coins down the chimney and they landed in the girls’ stockings they had hung on the mantel to dry by the fire.
Thus grew the tradition of hanging stockings.
The legend of this beautiful flower came out Mexico where it was traditional to leave gifts on the altar for Jesus on Christmas Eve. Very upset because he could not afford a gift for the altar, a young boy knelt outside the church and prayed. On that spot a beautiful plant with vibrant red leaves sprung up and is called, “the Flower of the Holy Night.”
A lady that we attended church with grew up in the Texas Valley in the early 1900’s; when she was a child, her family took a Christmas basket to a needy elderly neighbor.
The neighbor had no gift for them in return, but went out into her yard where beautiful poinsettias grew like shrubs all around her house. She gathered a large bouquet,
breaking the stems off with her hands until her arms were overflowing with poinsettias as a gift to the family.
Aunt Hazel carried this memory for the rest of her life; each Christmas when we put out the poinsettias on the altar she was moved again by how grateful the woman had been for their generosity and also by her wish to give them something in return. Often becoming emotional in this telling, Aunt Hazel would always remark on the purity of this simple exchange.
It is these personal accounts for me that make the traditions so special. I am thankful to have these two stories to keep in my own Christmas memory box.
They remind me of my grandfather and Aunt Hazel and an era when the gifting was much simpler, but so important and heartfelt.