Much like a Christmas tree, a jolly Santa Claus and a sprig of mistletoe, the tradition of hanging up stockings by the fireplace signals to people across the country and around the world that the Christmas season has arrived. The tradition is thought to stem from a legend about St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is believed to have helped three poor daughters without dowries by throwing bags of gold through an open window of their home and into their stockings or shoes that were drying by the fire [source: St. Nicholas Center]. While most children won't wake up to find gold in their stockings, many, if they have been good, will find treats and presents waiting for them.
In this article, we will explore five traditional stocking stuffers. First, let's look at stocking stuffers that are sure to cure anyone's sweet tooth.
A traditional favorite that can be found in many stockings around the country is candy. "It's sweet, and sweet makes you smile," says Print Cates, director of franchise operations at Powell's Sweet Shoppe. "With regards to Christmas, or any holiday, candy is extremely popular because it is going to elicit that smile." The iconic white-and-red candy cane has been a Christmas favorite for years. Watch for candy canes in flavors from chocolate to watermelon for an updated twist [sources: Cates and Spangler Candy Co.]. While most people wouldn't want to find coal in their stockings, candy coal in licorice or bubble gum can be a fun stocking stuffer [source: Cates]. Finally, if you have a chocolate lover in the family, foil-wrapped chocolates in holiday-themed shapes are popular.
Christmas stories, such as "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, are favorites for holiday reading. Books are also a great choice for stocking stuffers. "It's the gift that keeps on giving," says Sheri Hill, store manager of Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore in Cincinnati. "It can be re-read and handed down." From small board books for the youngest kids to miniature books or paperbacks for older kids, stocking-stuffer books can be either seasonally themed or simply by a favorite author or illustrator. Activity books, such as sticker books or coloring books, are also great stocking stuffers and perfect to bring on holiday trips [source: Hill].
Another stocking stuffer option that can occupy kids during a long holiday car ride is a game. Many manufacturers now offer travel or handheld electronic versions of favorite board games small enough for a stocking. Card games are another good option. For those going for a nostalgic twist, try yo-yos, bouncy balls, marbles, jacks and even a Rubix's Cube. While not actually a game, bubbles can provide hours of fun. Some varieties are even scented or come with odd-shaped wands to produce different bubble shapes.
While games may require a friend to play, action figures or collectibles can be enjoyed alone. Most action figures are plastic or wooden, and many are themed after characters in television shows, movies or even comics. Some action figures also come with coordinated homes or environments for additional play options.
Collectibles are the grown-up version of action figures. Some are still plastic, while others are porcelain or ceramic. These can have sentimental meanings or simply modeled after a member of the recipient's favorite sports team. Another version of action figures for adults are key rings with plastic, rubber or plush figures suspended from them. These add a whimsical element to an otherwise functional object.
Bath and Beauty Basics
Get ready to jump in that bath with stocking stuffers that are sure to make cleaning up a breeze. Travel-size bath products are the perfect size for a stocking stuffer. Many leading bath product manufacturers come out with seasonal scents along with packaging to add that festive twist to a beauty or grooming must-have. Keeping your teeth in top shape with all the candy and goodies available during the holidays can be a little easier with a stocking-stuffer toothbrush gift. Toothbrushes come in fun, kid-appropriate sizes for the little ones, too.
HowStuffWorks finds out more about the Catalan custom of the caganer, the figure in the Nativity scene taking a poop.
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