What’s your favorite part of Christmas?
Is it giving presents? Getting presents? Mistletoe? Carols? The glut of Christmas movies? The crispness of the air? The Christmas feast? Egg Nog? Children with that haunted, anticipatory, desperate look of a junkie in rehab? Christmas specials? Family? Memories? Anticipation? Sneaking peaks at your own presents? Office parties? Office after-party gossip? The kids obsessively watching the news hoping for snow before they go back to school?
It may seem odd, but my favorite part of Christmas is stocking stuffers.
I was an only child, and generally spent Christmas with at five to eight adults, depending on what relatives made the trip in a given year. But as the only child I had to adhere to an adults’ version of Christmas—translation: the family slept in.
Sedatives aside, no self-respecting kid is going to sleep in until 10am on Christmas day, so my family used the stocking to occupy me for the first four hours of Christmas. There was always enough packed in my stocking to keep me busy and relatively quiet until the adults woke up on their own.
I remember plenty of Star Wars action figures, puzzles—I grew up in the age of Rubik, so new puzzles were plentiful—Hot Wheels, Mini Lego sets, paperback books, snacks—though if candy came along it was usually later in the day—and myriad little, cheap, filler toys.
But I always loved the little cheap filler toys. My family used to tell me a story of when my father’s college roommate came into town, and met me for the first time. I was either two or three years old. He and I hit it off, and sometime during the trip he took me to Lionel Playworld and told me I could get anything I wanted in the entire store. I picked a four-pack of Weeble Wobbles.
I just always seemed to enjoy the smaller, less constrained toys. I liked action figures instead of the sets that went along with them. I liked handheld puzzles instead of board games. I liked individual Hot Wheels rather than the full tracks.
And all that great stuff fit perfectly into a stocking.
And now I get to fill them. Five of them to be exact.
I don’t just run out to the dollar store and grab filler, although I do use that stuff to fill in the empty spaces once the real stuffers are selected and put in place. And even though with four kids, there has to be significant amount of balancing—lest someone think they got shorted—I’m always able to get a few special prizes in there that make the stocking more than an appetizer.
So, what’s your favorite part of Christmas?