Best Loved Traditions

After downsizing from our home where my sons spent most of their childhood, our memories and most treasured possessions were carefully chosen. Lots of keepsakes followed us, but none more priceless – at least to me! – than our matching, personalized, hand-knit Christmas stockings. Mine was lovingly handmade by a friend of my mother’s the year I was born, and when I had my first child, her equally creative daughter graciously agreed to take over the tradition using the identical pattern.

I think they reveal something about us: We’re traditional at heart, we do love to celebrate, and while mine from 1959 boasts slightly different shades of red and green than theirs from 1991 and 1996, maybe that’s a statement of where we’ve landed. We’re still traditional, with our southern roots, but my oldest son now lives in Brooklyn, NY, and we’ve adapted to knowing sometimes our holidays might be spent somewhere new.

And yes, those stockings travel! A few years back they were one of the first things I packed for our first Christmas Day in New York, and I have no doubt they will travel there again, and anywhere else we need them to go. We are flexible on locale, and the name on those stockings is the most important thing! While so many details of life have changed, this single tradition has not. If there’s no mantel, we find a place of honor for them in our holiday gathering.

Mine – with its slightly more vintage coloring – was always my favorite part of Christmas morning, and I think that carried over to the boys. An interesting assortment of goodies has filled those stockings, from Thomas the Tank Engine to Star Wars and Pokemon, always with the appropriate amount of chocolate and bubblegum for good measure. More recently, a gas gift card or hand sanitizer, but always combined with something sweet or silly to complete the mix. Amazingly, Santa still remembers my favorite candy, too! When I was growing up, we always asked Santa for “nuts and fruits and candy” to complete our wish-list – and those always found their way into my stocking as a child.

My mother also had the exact same stocking design handmade for the first-born children of my two best high school friends. Sometimes, your traditions stretch to other hearts!

While I know the memories and the love are the important things, our carefully stored stockings are also in the “to-go” bag if we had to evacuate for any reason. Call me crazy, but there they are!

Hoping I hadn’t taken the material attachment thing too far, I asked friends for some of their family traditions, which have included creating “scratch off” coupons for each other’s stockings (free movie night, ice cream party, and an automatic argument win – gotta love that one!), playing a Frank Sinatra Christmas album on the old-fashioned record player while opening gifts, in memory of a missing parent, and driving to the North Carolina mountains as a family, in search of the perfect tree to cut down.

As we move through the years faster than ever, and the “look” of our Christmas mornings may shift ever so slightly, the childhood memories and unending love will always be there: in a sentimental melody or an heirloom tree ornament, and always, peeking out of our well-loved stockings!

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