When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was my favorite night of the holiday season. It's when my family would open gifts, which felt extra special with the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree dancing against the backdrop of darkness outside. While the excitement of tearing open packages was over by morning, the magic stretched into Christmas Day when I awoke to find a big red stocking stuffed with a host of small treasures. But Christmas never seemed to last long enough, and I always felt sad when it was over.
That's why I tried something new once I was married and starting a family of my own. In an effort to prolong the magic of the season, I decided to save our stockings for New Year's Day. With piles of presents to open at Christmas, I didn't see a reason to open stockings at the same time. Instead, I thought it'd be nice to start off the new year with something, well, new. So in my first year of marriage, Christmas stockings became New Year's stockings. And it's been that way ever since.
Just like we did in those early years, my husband and I still stuff one another's stocking on New Year's Eve when the other isn't looking. And on New Year's Day, we unload them, delighting in the surprise. Much of the time, we awake to find our stockings bulging with small, inexpensive gifts, like candy, coffee, gift cards, or socks. But occasionally, we've saved the best gifts of the season for the first day of the year, like the latest iPhone or a sparkling piece of jewelry.
Having kids has made this tradition even better. Christmas stockings are a foreign concept to my kids, who have only ever known New Year's stockings. Though I'll admit that when they excitedly bring up the topic in social situations, it can be awkward responding to strange looks and explaining how and why we carry out this tradition differently than most.
As a family, we hang our stockings along with the rest of our Christmas decor. But when the gifts are all unwrapped and cleanup has begun, my kids know they still have surprises ahead as they anticipate opening their stockings on New Year's Day. It keeps the sparkle of Christmas from fading for just a little bit longer. And even though the gifts in their stockings are smaller and sometimes more practical than the gifts they tear open on Christmas, they still wake up on New Year's Day and race to their stockings with excitement comparable to that of Christmas. Plus, they love getting a few final gifts to enjoy when their friends have been done opening presents for a week.
Over the years, the tradition has evolved just a bit. While we still stuff stockings with goodies like candy, lip gloss, fancy coffee, or small toys, we also focus on items or experiences that serve a real purpose. As a family, during the week between Christmas and New Year's, we discuss goals and resolutions for the coming year. Then we use those discussion points as inspiration for stocking stuffers. So when my daughter tells me she'd like to improve her drawing skills, I might register her for an art class and place a receipt for the registration in her stocking. Or when my husband says he'd like to complete a 5K, he might get a gift card to our local running store so he can purchase the gear needed to reach his goal. One year, I told my husband I wanted to keep better track of the silly things my kids say and do, so he stuffed my stocking with pens and a small, take-anywhere journal to make it easy for me to record anecdotes from the day-to-day of family life.
Try as we might, there's no easing into the holiday season. We rush, rush, rush in the weeks prior to Christmas, and it's all over in a matter of hours. But saving our stockings for New Year's Day has been a fun way for our family to ease out of it, because after the big event is over, there's still something special to look forward to even as the season ends. And with the added focus of choosing stocking stuffers that can be used throughout the year, it truly is a way to enjoy the magic of Christmas all year long.