If you ask people which they like better - presents under the tree or stocking stuffers, they will probably say the presents under the tree. After all, these are bigger, usually more predictable, probably something you’ve wanted, and often more thoughtful than the neglected stockings. I mean, the word “stuffer” just makes it sound like an afterthought, and in most households it’s an amalgamation of candy, dollar-barrel knick knacks, maybe some $10 gift cards for here and there, and even the occasional hygiene item like toothpaste or deodorant to help with the stocking’s illusion of being filled to the brim with a “surprise”. We are all ever-so hopeful that something truly worthwhile and exciting lies within, but ultimately, even if these items are enjoyed at the moment, they will be soon forgotten when the time to open the big presents role around.
This is not how it should be, though! Stockings are typically the starter to the gift giving on Christmas day – a little taste of what is to come that everyone digs into immediately – especially since it’s not wrapped, so it’s not necessarily a Christmas “no-no” to help yourself and start taking out the contents even when everyone isn’t ready. Instead of a rushed precursor to the traditional time of gathering around the Christmas tree to unwrap presents, we should all embrace the opportunity of the stocking and its potential to set the entire tone of Christmas gift-giving traditions.
Getting everyone to get in the spirit of peace, love, joy, friendship, and family is so important for the holidays, and with so much hustle and bustle it is very difficult to do. All attention is on “what am I getting?” and “are those my presents?” and because we can be so naturally self-centric, we need creative gifts that intentionally unify everyone gathered together in the living room (even the attention of the youngest children). The way to move from selfish chaos to selfless caring is to poise your holiday traditions with reflections of what is most meaningful in life and what your greatest priorities are.
For many people, these priorities are family, friendship, hope, love, calm, and happiness. And the answer to achieving all of this could be in the stocking stuffers! We can use stockings to engender these feelings of peace, sacredness, fun, and connectedness as everyone flocks to them first – and instead of the typical presents in stockings, you can place gifts that are small, unexpected, but extremely meaningful in their place – if that doesn’t sound like a Biblical allusion, then I don’t know what does! I suppose it makes sense that our righteous desire to have a Christ-centered Christmas day would lead to gifts that also reflect the nature of His birth and life on this Earth - the simplicity, the ultimate gift, the tenderness - setting the tone for what is most important in this world.
So, what are some ideas of how to foster this holiday cheer and meaningful gift giving in your home? Well, below are four stocking stuffers that are cheap, enjoyable, fun, interactive, memorable, and fulfilling for all ages.
The Hug Card
Nothing brings people together like The Hug Card. It’s incredibly fun to use and everyone will want to put their thumbs on it to see how many hugs they need! This present bridges the young and the old, the teenager and the parent, the new fiancé and the soon-to-be in-laws. Who doesn’t love playing with “mood” changing novelty item? The Hug Card is a loveable present that will have everyone moving around, interacting, and hugging one another. It’s the perfect icebreaker present, and also the best excuse to give the Scrooge of the family a big bear hug! It can be used throughout the gift giving process, too– whoever’s turn it is to open a present, has to use it to see if they need to give a hug or receive a hug from the person who gave the present to them!
There are so many combinations of loving holiday games that can come from this cheerful stocking stuffer. This is the gift that truly keeps giving because it instills important values of showing affection, serving others, being nice to everyone, and being attentive to people’s needs. Even after the holidays, important values can be instilled through the continued use of The Hug Card and the principles behind it. It can be used in the home, with friends, in the work place, and anywhere else you’re inspired to give the gift of hugs! It’s appropriate for any situation because no matter what, people need ‘em. This is one gift that is important year round.
A picture album
There are so many affordable and easy options these days to create picture albums right off our phones. Using anything from Shutterfly, to Chatbooks, or Groovebook – you can make an album curated for each person individually, or, the same album for everyone – you can use your own pictures, gather them from everyone, or even do a little Facebook and Instagram stalking to quickly make an album! Either one is a great option! People adore physical pictures that can be held, touched, flipped through, and shown some tangible love.
Everyone can agree that a picture in hand is better than pixels on a screen. This will spur conversations about fun memories, relationships, great stories, and let everyone’s voice be heard. Since a picture is a thousand words, it’s also an effective way to express your love and appreciation for your loved ones that you are celebrating with. It can bring on laughter, it can bring on tears, and ultimately, it will bring on the feeling of Christmas that your family needs while ending up in picture frames or coffee tables for years to come.
A blank, portable journal may seem like a dull gift, but if you take time to explain the importance of journaling, it can make a world of difference for individual wellness as well as strengthen relationships. Studies show that people who take even a few minutes to journal each day are generally healthier, less stressed, more meta-cognitive, and also more aware of the needs of others. This can push everyone in the right direction for their New Year’s goals... start journaling! If someone is particularly artistic, you may want to get them a blank one and include some pastels and different line-weighted pencils.
Even for those who prefer to stick to the journaling basics of writing, you can include a nice pen to give them all the tools they need to start the habit. If you have the time, it would be thoughtful to write a little note at the beginning letting the person know why you love them and how great certain qualities are. My mom used to do this and it always helped me when I was too confused to think of my own words. I also have The Hug Card in the front of my journal now. It’s a good way to keep me grounded and help me realize my own needs and reflect on my feelings when I use it before writing or drawing.
A homemade coupon book
I feel like these have a stigma now of being sort of cheesy and may sometimes give off the vibe of “I’m too cheap or too absent-minded to have gotten you a real present”. Forget that connotation and hear me out. We all desire to help and do good for those that we love. Sometimes, though, the craziness of life, routines, and even our bad moods can hinder our good intentions. That’s when these coupon books can come in. You can either fill them in ahead of time for everyone OR make a little pre-gift exchange activity out of everyone brainstorming what should be on the coupons. Doing a hybrid of the two is also a great idea!
Using The Hug Card as part of the coupon can be a fun twist as well and do an entire family coupon book. An example of this is “Whoever gets blue on The Hug Card gets to give Mom 2 hugs and kisses” or “Whoever gets black on The Hug Card gets to pick what they want for dessert.” The possibilities are endless and can cater to what you feel your loved ones can use at the time.
We are excited for you to bring happiness and the true meaning of Christmas into your holiday season with these creative ideas for stocking stuffers!