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Stocking Stuffers

On Christmas morning, big gifts like a Power Wheel, Casio keyboard or Barbie Dreamhouse are kind of hard to disguise. One of the things that makes opening presents so fun is the unknown. So while the shape a new bicycle may kill the suspense, you can always count on the treasures buried within your Christmas stocking to bring you little surprises that keep the holiday spirit burning in your heart. Today let’s talk about some of the fun items that have been found in those “stockings hung by the fire with care” over the years.

In my family you could always count on one thing for sure being included in your grab bag of Christmas fun, NUTS! Walnuts, Brazil Nuts, uh…sorry, naming nuts is not my area of expertise (I’m no Harland Pepper from Best In Show), but what’s in a name? What really made the experience special was that the nuts were still in the shell, so you actually had to use a nutcracker to open them! We had several handheld models to handle the different degrees of shell density, but that’s where the fun stopped for me. Let’s be honest, the flavor of unprocessed nuts really leaves something to be desired (never underestimate the seasoning power of Mr. Peanut). Now I have to believe my Dad was the mastermind behind this inclusion, because the guy was crazy for mixed nuts. There was always can or jar from Planters on our stereo cabinet, just waiting to be devoured while he listened to organ music.

If my Dad was responsible for possible damage to your teeth with hard shelled nuts, my Mom was the "Orthodontic Avenger" stressing good oral hygiene. There was always a toothbrush with toothpaste included to remind us that candy canes and Christmas fudge were in fact the enemy. The fun part was we weren’t getting industrial grade products, usually they were Muppets or Batman inspired and if I was lucky, it included the pump tube from Aquafresh. The commercial featuring the striped anthropomorphic toothpaste tube really made the whole cleaning your teeth experience seem magical. Add to that the fact that red, green & white of Aquafresh looked like the neopolitan ice cream version of toothpaste and we had a clear winner. As hard as my mom tried, there was one sugary item that could not be ignored.

PEZ! Who would have thought that the severed heads of my favorite cartoon characters mounted on a plastic candy dispenser would bring such joy. Guarding those sweet little tablets could be a Smurf, Garfield, Yoda, heck, I’d even take Wonder Woman in a pinch. Although they often came mounted on a cardboard backing, I always preferred the simpler bagged models. The crunch of the bag as I released Spider-Man from his plastic prison, was as joyous as the sound of jingle bells in my mind. I have to admit that the candy angle was never as exciting to me as was the play value. I usually stored the still wrapped sugar blocks inside the hollow plastic guts of the device and played with it like an action figure. The candy was used as a desirable power source for my heroes, like Energon to the Transformers. Now that we’re talking about playtime, let’s bring on the toys!

Though a great majority of the stocking space was taken up by the items mentioned above, my parents always managed to squeeze a couple small toys into the mix, acting like the prize in the Christmas morning cereal box. Simple yet fun playthings like Silly Putty or a Duncan yo-yo were not uncommon, but my face would really light up when I got one of those miniature water games or handheld pinball. So simple, yet so fun. They were kind of like the Angry Birds of the day with their basic mechanics, but you would spend hours trying to master them. While we’re on the subject, I’ll also profess my love for those drippy globule timer things. Come on, you know what I’m talking about, it was like a heatless version of a lava lamp that just had colored dye dripping down an underwater ramp. Mesmerizing.

When they really wanted to impress me, packs of Marvel Universe cards were added to the pile and later those miniature die-cast Steel Mutants X-Men figures. If you really want to hurt someone, just chuck a solid metal Wolverine at their head, then call an ambulance. Those things were dangerous! I also remember a few Trash Bag Bunch toys being shoved in the stocking. Imagine combining the joy of action figures with the anticipation of opening trading cards, add a little Alka-Seltzer fizz to the proceedings and it was a total win. In the wake of other tiny toys like M.U.S.C.L.E. and Monster In My Pocket, the Trash Bag Bunch really set themselves a apart with the dissolving packaging gimmick.

That about does it for the excitement of furry socks stuffed with goodies. Honorable mention goes to tubes of Cherry Chapstick. Though it wasn’t the most thrilling item to pull out of the stocking, the smell of the stuff is right up there with the aroma of cinnamon and pine in my list of memory inducing Christmas scents. So let’s hear from you, what stocking stuffer traditions did you enjoy year after year?

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Dalek227 Posted on Dec 20, 2018 at 05:48 AM

My mom went craaaaazy overboard with Stockings and I loved it. I wish I had the means to do that for my son but we still get some cool stuff. When I was really young I had that Tinkerbell little girls perfume and makeup set in my stocking. The yearly big tin/box of Crayola Crayons. Silly string, bathtub crayons, lots of candy, new tooth brush and tooth paste, water color set, just so much stuff. It was really kind of ridiculous to spoil us as much as they did but again, I can't really say that I didn't enjoy it and sometimes i'm the same way with my son, or try to be. It was only last Christmas when he was 13 that it finally occurred to me to stop getting him lots of junk just so it looks like he's getting a lot. Just get what he actually asked for and call it good.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 05:37 PM

Well, really these days I prefer the Starburst "books". But any storybook will do. Not that I even do any of the activities in the book. I just like the novelty... for some reason.

OldSchool80s Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 03:12 PM

PEZ was definitely the perfect stocking stuffer. So were packs of baseball, football, basketball cards. Always received one of those "books" of Life Savers rolls.

NLogan Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 06:26 PM

The Life Saver Storybook is a must. Some years there was also a giant Hershey's Kiss.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 02:20 AM

Most generally my stocking was full of things that were not good for my health. There wasn't much in the way of toys in my stockings.

Now that I'm a father/husband, my wife knows that no matter what she puts in there, there is one thing that is an absolute must every year... the Storybook candy box. Whether it be LifeSavers, Starburst, or some other brand, a Storybook box BETTER be in there, or watch out.

pikachulover Posted on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:14 PM

I got the oranges too. I used to get art supplies like pens or markers when I was a little older. I remember one year I got some Dream Bears. They were like Care Bear knockoff figures made by Remco. They even had their own clothing sets sold separately of course. One year I got a few Sylvanian Families figures in the stocking.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 18, 2014 at 09:24 PM

@NLogan Mmmm, chocolate oranges were a treat. I think those nutcrackers were pretty widely purchased from the 40s-80s, but it seems like a tradition that may have already faded away for our generation. I'll have to keep count this year on how many I see in friend's homes.

NLogan Posted on Dec 18, 2014 at 08:53 PM

My mom always included an orange with the candy. The picture of the mixed nuts looks like it came directly from my house with the exact nutcracker we had. Chocolate oranges and raspberry chocolate sticks are still a feature of my stockings and have been for years. We usually got coloring books, card games, and small toys included.

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