Stocking Stuffers Only Southerners Will Remember
When we asked for a book in our stocking, this is what we meant.
At Christmastime, Southerners love hanging our stockings “by the chimney with care.” Of course, some of us have to turn on the air conditioner to burn the Yule Log because we can have a 70-degree spike, even with Santa in the neighborhood. Still, there’s something magical about Christmas stockings—and our memories of retro stocking stuffers.
When we polled our Facebook Brain Trust, one of the vintage stocking stuffers that bubbled to the top of the sock was Lifesaver books. Remember those? You opened a “book” to discover a variety pack of Lifesavers candy (lemon, lime, orange, cherry, pineapple, and later . . . butter rum. Yum).
Lifesavers weren’t the only edibles in our stockings, of course. Some were homemade, like popcorn balls held together with a sticky Karo-syrup based concoction that was sweetly delish.
We got our share of traditional stocking stuffers, like peppermints—candy canes, giant peppermint sticks, those melt-away peppermints that dissolved in your mouth . . .
Some of us got chocolate-covered cherries or raisins in our stockings. We wouldn’t turn down a box of Milk Duds, a couple of packs of Nekot cookies, some of that chewy orange-slice candy, or a new PEZ dispenser and candy. (Does PEZ have an SEC/ACC line? Because that would be a really good idea.) And given our access to Florida citrus, oranges and tangerines were a given, as were pecans and walnuts. MoonPies and Cracker Jacks might make an appearance. (Aside: Does anybody remember when the prizes in Cracker Jacks required assembly? Now they lean toward stickers and press-on tattoos, but there was a time when your Cracker Jacks might have a vehicle inside.) Let’s not forget Pixie Stix, those straws filled with tart powder we would pour into our mouths.
We used to get all kinds of smallish toys in our stockings: Silly Putty, Play-Doh, Slinkys, BoLo paddle balls, Rook cards, jacks, pick-up sticks, yo-yos, wind-up metal toys, harmonicas . . . even firecrackers and sparklers.
Toys aside, Southern parents can be a practical lot, tucking in socks, toothbrushes, and Chapstick amongst more whimsical stocking stuffers. Pencils bridged the practical and the fanciful. Those ginormous pencils—we’re talking a foot tall—were popular for a while. And some of us were pretty excited to get regular pencils with our name stamped onto them (in gold!!!) For good measure, Mama’n’em might toss in a pack or two of BBs for our Daisy Red Ryder or some film and flashcubes for the Kodak Instamatic they knew to be wrapped beneath the tree.
Because so many of our parents smoked back in the day, they had no problem gifting their offspring with candy cigarettes and bubblegum cigars. My cousin Kathy and I used to like pairing our candy cigarettes with a set of toy fake nails that slipped over our fingertips so we could look glamorous like TV private detective Honey West while we puffed on our cigs—until we chewed them up.
Remember candy necklaces with the giant Sweet Tart-esque heart dangling from the strand of edible beads? It’s a wonder we didn’t break some teeth on that pendant.
Speaking of accessories, during the era of the omnipresent add-a-bead necklaces in the late 70s and early 80s, gold beads were a popular stocking stuffer. (When I was a freshman at Auburn, I could spot a Kappa Delta a mile away, just by the way the sun bounced off her many strands of add-a-beads.)
Southern girls love getting, well, girly stuff. Our stockings sometimes held fragrances we loved back when: Love’s Baby Soft, Charlie, Wind Song, Jovan Musk, Enjoli, Aviance, and Cachet. Also welcome in our stockings were Maybelline Kissing Potion and Bonne Bell Lip-Smackers.
So what about this Christmas? I can’t speak for all my Southern sisters, but I can tell you what would fill my dream stocking: anti-aging eye cream, Spanx, Starbucks, a Magnolia Market gift card so I can shop with Chip and Joanna, Advil, chocolate, and a new iPhone. But that’s just me.
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An old-fashioned inn saved from corporate development, a cookie that changes a town, a bah-humbug store owner transformed by the Christmas spirit—we're just guessing here, but the guys might catch some storylines like that on Hallmark.