Why, Santa, WHY?
December 2, 2012 11:01 AM   Subscribe

What did your parents stuff your stockings with that you will never forget?

At our place, Santa never forgot to add the wretched SunMaid Raisins to our stockings. I think we even wrote about how we didn't like them and please could he stop? in our letters to him. I'd like to confuse my kid with something strange in the stocking, too. And I'm looking for ideas.

What did you wake up to find year on year in your Christmas Stocking?

Or do you have a good suggestion?

Already planning on a toothbrush and toothpaste, but the SunMaid Raisins are not available where I live and I'd like to start my own tradition, so I'm looking for something else.
posted by pick_the_flowers to Grab Bag (92 answers total) 104 users marked this as a favorite
We always had an orange and a walnut in ours. Nobody ever ate them but they were there every year. Also we were allowed to dig into the stockings before the parents were up. I've done that w/my kids too & it's a nice tradition.
posted by headnsouth at 11:05 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Vitamins. Socks.
posted by ariela at 11:06 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Underwear. Random candy. Nail polish.
posted by woodvine at 11:08 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everyone got socks and underwear. Even if they were my grandma, or my dad's lonely friend or my college boyfriend who came home for Christmas with me one year.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:09 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Thong underwear. If only I were kidding.
posted by mynameisluka at 11:11 AM on December 2, 2012 [11 favorites]

Half-chewed carrots. From the reindeer. (Like a reindeer would stuff them down the bottom of a stocking, I KNOW. Just to make it worse, I live in Australia.)
posted by Salamander at 11:13 AM on December 2, 2012 [18 favorites]

Orange in the toe. Always underwear sticking out the top. Those candy ornage slices. And always a mini Lego set (from age 5 to 27).

Well, I'm 27 now, so I assume I'll see one in a few weeks.
posted by supercres at 11:14 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

My mother-in-law goes to an Asian grocery store, where she buys strange-tasting little candies, cans of coconut milk, seasoning packets, soup mixes, hand warmers, etc., and puts them in everyone's stockings. I remember macadamia nuts one year. I have occasionally acquired devil ducks, kazoos, and the like, and put them in the stockings too.

We are all in our 30s to 60s, by the way....
posted by brianogilvie at 11:15 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Office supplies. Post-Its, scissors, packs of pens, staple removers, and white out.

And a single, giant orange in the toe.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:15 AM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

smoked oysters - the kind in the can/tin. every year. would not be Christmas without them!
posted by Sassyfras at 11:16 AM on December 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

- chocolates/candy (yay)
- little bars of fun/interesting soap (I loved these! Bars of Dr. Bonner's peppermint, for example)
- flavored chapstics (when I was little it was Bonne Bell 'lipsmackers')
- usually some cash or coins (yes!)
- an orange (this felt antiquated/was unwanted–like your raisins)
- an ornament of some sort (while I was under 18 = fairly unwanted)
- little wooden toys like a top (more decorative than fun, but ok)
- tiny flip books
- comic books
- pens/pencils
- hair clips
- make-up items (brushes or a lipstick)
- earrings or jewelry (always good)
- stickers (scratch-and-sniff= yes, fun)
- socks (ok)
- gum (yes)
- doll house furniture (not nearly enough)

(Oh, and the money, if there was any, was always all the way on the bottom).
posted by marimeko at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Candy canes and a clementine. We always had wackily-flavored lipglosses for the girls. And everybody got tickets to a fun event (movie, play, etc.) that we would do as a family later on Christmas Day.
posted by anonnymoose at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lottery tickets
posted by kimdog at 11:19 AM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Orange in the toe, yes. And my in-laws do this to their kids, which I'm now inflicting on my family.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:20 AM on December 2, 2012

Agree that citrus is mandatory. Could be orange, could be clementine.
Fun coins - eg Susan B Anthony dollar coins in the US
Emery board and a comb
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:20 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Candy-wise, we always got a Toblerone bar, a Terry's Chocolate Orange, and a bag of chocolate coins. I don't remember a lot of the other stuff - I guess it always changed year-on-year - but those were constants.
posted by littlegreen at 11:27 AM on December 2, 2012

Half-chewed carrots. From the reindeer. (Like a reindeer would stuff them down the bottom of a stocking, I KNOW. Just to m What no Six White Boomers?

In my family a big Toblerone and a Manderine orange. Yum!
posted by chapps at 11:32 AM on December 2, 2012

We also had the tradition where the presents under the tree stayed wrapped until the parents were up, but the stocking were fair game as soon as you were awake. So there were always some toys in there, small puzzles or light-up bouncing balls or something like that, to keep us occupied and buy our parents a few precious extra minutes.

We always got deodorant once we were old enough for it. And underwear and socks.
posted by mskyle at 11:33 AM on December 2, 2012

For God's sake, don't even think about putting an eel head in your daughter's stocking.

It took some forethought, too, in saving it for several weeks after the fanciest party in town.

But it also took the kind of crazy that makes you walk past the remnants of a buffet and immediately think, "Ah! That eel head is EXACTLY what my squeamish 16-year-old daughter needs to have as her dominant Christmas memory!"

Bonus points if, when said daughter shares the story with friends, you protest, saying that "nobody needs to know about that" because it's "not funny" and you were only "making memories."
posted by Madamina at 11:35 AM on December 2, 2012 [49 favorites]

Brazil nuts. In the shells.
posted by amtho at 11:35 AM on December 2, 2012

Orange AND an apple. Tantalizing heft, every year the same vague disappointment. We, too, lobbied to have them left out. As an adult I'd have been disappointed not to find them!

Candy canes sticking out of the top were de rigueur. If I got a money gift, it was also in an envelope at the top.

Small gifts in the stocking were wrapped nicely and exciting to find. Those teeny boxes of Russell Stover chocolates often made an appearance.

Have fun creating your tradition!
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 11:35 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Asian pears were a welcome substitute for the orange. Like I will go buy one myself this year because xmas is not complete without one now.
posted by ansate at 11:41 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can of Pringles. My parents were brilliant/evil.
posted by Punctual at 12:02 PM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Every year a different small wind-up toy for me and my sister. Usually they were thematically related, for example two different types of robots, or walking chickens with different color schemes. A big bonus was that we could wind them up and make them fight.
posted by itstheclamsname at 12:10 PM on December 2, 2012

Nthing oranges, as that was tradition in my family. In my husband's family, his dad always puts coconuts in them, but they might be prohibitively large for your stockings.
posted by pitrified at 12:15 PM on December 2, 2012

We always got mixed nuts in the shells, and we'd never eat them, so they'd go into a basket and we'd get them again the next year. Eventually we were warned not to eat them because they were so old.

So, yeah: Recycled, decorative nuts that we were ordered not to consume. The parsley of Christmas.

I think you should drop in a handful of puzzle pieces from a 500-piece puzzle. Each year, another handful.
posted by mochapickle at 12:16 PM on December 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

The rules for the Please family stockings were similar to what mskyle describes, with the added bonus that Santa left the stockings on the end of our beds while we slept. My parents bought cheap-o dollar store toys, games, and puzzles that would be interesting for both my older brother and I (so we could switch off) usually resulting in us hanging out in our own rooms for a bit before one of us visited the other, and therefore at least an extra 30 minutes of sleep for my folks.

As we got older, stockings were for toiletries/cosmetics, socks, underwear, snacks, cash, and eventually airplane-sized liquor bottles.
posted by juliplease at 12:17 PM on December 2, 2012

Those big plastic candy canes, filled with Hershey's kisses. Little bags of chocolate coins.
posted by veerat at 12:21 PM on December 2, 2012

Necco Wafers, the least candy-like candy ever produced. My dad has a thing for old-fashioned candy. It was always tough to explain to friends what horehound drops were.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:21 PM on December 2, 2012

Chapstick - well, Avon lip balm - has been the stocking mainstay in my family for as long as I can remember. We also always get a handful of various sweets - the Russel Stover marshmallow christmas trees, maybe some festive peanut butter cups, etc - and usually an inexplicable trinket or two (one year, it was christmas-themed "matchbox" music boxes. Another, it was santa-mitten shaped reusable hand warmers). Gift cards make common appearances too, each one wrapped in wrapping paper individually before being put in the stocking. Why? Who knows, but I kind of like it!

Now that my sister and I are both adults, we also usually get $10 or $20 worth of lottery tickets stuffed in among the other stuff.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 12:24 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

As I was a reading kid, my mom hit upon the idea of putting books in mine and letting me go at the stocking as soon as I woke up. Rather brilliantly, this meant she didn't have to wake up at 4 or 5am, but usually got until 8 or 9am when I'd buzzsawed through the book(s) and gotten bored/all fucked up on candy and treats and wanted to open my presents.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:31 PM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

We always got batteries, a Hershesys bar, a bag of M&Ms, a tin of Altoids, lottery tickets, and gift cards to chain restaurants.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 12:35 PM on December 2, 2012

For years (as a teen and into my twenties) I got around of Camembert cheese. Mmmmmm! We also got a variety of those "year in review" editions of various magazines (Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, People) and could then laze around reading to each other for a few hours while mom worked on the dinner.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:36 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Kentucky. Whilst all the cousins got little toys, chocolates and oranges, our poor sweet head of the family grandfather who spent his life working for Peabody coal got a stocking of coal and some switches. Nothing like a good oxymoron to fix your memory.
posted by effluvia at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2012

A can of Spam.
posted by Sal and Richard at 12:39 PM on December 2, 2012

Didn't really have a stocking thing growing up, but for my son, I put little gadgets like the kind you can get from Think Geek, money and international candy he hasn't seen before -- strange gummi candies from the Asian market, British chocolate bars, etc.

Fun kits, too. He still speaks fondly of the origami-with-a-dollar kit we put in there to make origami bunnies and swans out of a $1 (with the dollar provided, of course).

There's usually at least one ridiculous gag gift (like now that he's "over" Pokemon for several years, there'll be a little Pokemon thing in there, just so I can experience the joy of him holding it up and saying, "Seriously?!").

Also nthing the idea of movie tickets, which I add to the stocking in trios so that he and his two besties can take off after school to the movie theater whenever there's something they all want to see.
posted by dean winchester at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

The orange/clementine must be wrapped neatly in aluminum foil.
Also a Terry's Chocolate Orange as mentioned by littlegreen
posted by lungtaworld at 12:43 PM on December 2, 2012

Orange in the toe, and a Terry's chocolate orange (or raspberry, some years, just for a change). Every year one of us would get the spinning Santa toy. Minutes and minutes of fun! Very soothing periodic motion. I'm shocked that the plastic gear mechanism hasn't broken yet.

I have friends who used to get hotel soaps. I always thought this was odd.
posted by katya.lysander at 1:03 PM on December 2, 2012

Pez dispensers! Different ones each year. These days my sister and I make stockings for each other and we still put in Pez dispensers for one another, even though she despises the candies inside them.
posted by diamondsky at 1:04 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

We always had a tiny Whitman's Sampler box (the one with the 5 pieces in it) and a little bag of barley lollipops shaped like toys. I'd get Avon lip gloss too, because Mrs. Claus sold Avon just like my mom did.
posted by kimberussell at 1:04 PM on December 2, 2012

Avon bubble bath. Always.
posted by smirkyfodder at 1:10 PM on December 2, 2012

When I was a little kid we always got Slinkys. Every year. They were metal then, not rainbow hued plastic. By Easter, they'd be permanently bent out of shape and tossed into the garbage, then the next Christmas we'd each get another one, and we'd go nuts with excitement because we'd forgotten they even existed.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:30 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chap Stick, floss, and a new toothbrush! Every year, without fail. I guess my mom had an abiding interest in Yuletide oral hygiene.

One year my wife's sister got a lump of coal in her stocking (among other items). The coal has been kept in her stocking every year so the family can reminisce about the year she was so bad. Good times.
posted by cheapskatebay at 2:01 PM on December 2, 2012

We each got a popcorn ball in our stocking every year, and no one in our family even likes popcorn balls except mom!

posted by palegirl at 2:14 PM on December 2, 2012 [13 favorites]

Ribbon candy, unwrapped with lint from the stocking stuck to it. And an orange or clementine, of course. That supposedly dates to earlier days when fresh fruit in winter was a rare treat.
posted by TedW at 2:18 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hollow chocolate Santa Claus. Always broken in grotesque ways by the time we dug it out.
posted by crabintheocean at 2:27 PM on December 2, 2012

My siblings and I always get a magazine or comic book-- I always get an Archie comic because I went through a phase of being obsessed with them when I was little.

Not exactly a stocking idea, but my partner's family has a tradition that I love, whereby the family goes out for a walk in the evening on Christmas Eve and when they get back, the 'tree fairy' has dropped by and left a little gift for each kid in the christmas tree which they get to open.
posted by torisaur at 2:30 PM on December 2, 2012

Can of olives.
posted by k8t at 2:33 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interesting foodstuffs that we would dare each other to eat. Last year- Sour cream and onion flavored crickets. They also come in BBQ flavor.
posted by kamikazegopher at 2:53 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

..oh - and quite a lot of what became the cast of "Toy Story" - for example slinky dog and bucket of soldiers.
posted by rongorongo at 3:01 PM on December 2, 2012

We always had satsumas instead of oranges (bonus: we all love eating them). The nuts used to be in the shell, but after one too many years of no one eating them, they transformed into spiced ,or candied nuts. The money was always some neat coin -- a silver dollar, Sacajawea coin when they were new, walking liberty, etc. The candy cane started out normal, but then went to the huge hand crafted many different flavors kind (and now this is what no one eats). And there is always a decorated cookie sticking out the top. I don't remember how it was explained when I was little, but I tell my daughter that if we leave out a big plate of cookies, Santa eats some and puts the rest at the top of the stocking. There's always candy, but often little presents too, and they'd always be wrapped. My stepmom always got a lottery ticket in hers (she never buys them, but finds it fun once a year).
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:28 PM on December 2, 2012

My parents would fill our stockings with loose candy - Hershey's kisses, individually wrapped Starburst candies, red licorice ropes, and Skittles. (My mom was so concerned about being fair in gift distribution that she would count out how many Skittles there were of each flavor, so she could give exactly half to me and my brother.) Then she would stick little assorted gifts in between the candy - little jars of macadamia nuts (I always loved eating them while reading one of my new books from under the tree), $20 bills (in college, they became rolls of quarters for laundry), tchotchkes, action figures.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 3:52 PM on December 2, 2012

a giant bag of popcorn
posted by Ignorance at 4:09 PM on December 2, 2012

We also got satsumas at the toe of the stocking, which was especially weird because there was also always a continual giant bowl of satsumas in the kitchen, starting in November or so and lasting as long as they were in season. But in they went to the stockings, as well.
posted by heyforfour at 4:12 PM on December 2, 2012

For my son, I put a nutcracker toy each year (with the date written on the bottom so now he has a nice collection). His sticking is about four feet long so he gets the big nutcracker soldier. I always empty an entire tin of quality street chocolates (common in the UK and Canada) in for my daughter. Balloons and flashlights. A yo-yo in the toe.
posted by saucysault at 4:15 PM on December 2, 2012

Ah, I remember practical Santa! Who one year brought us the present of... tampons. My sister and I were less than enthused.

Otherwise it wasn't Christmas without chocolate gelt, a citrus fruit of some kind, and something bizarre (at the time) - starfruit, those spiky little melons, etc. And lottery tickets! Those were fun, especially if they were the big "Bingo"-style ones.
posted by daikaisho at 4:36 PM on December 2, 2012

posted by Stewriffic at 4:46 PM on December 2, 2012

Of all the things that were in my stocking over the years, the only item I remember clearly is a Santa Claus Pez dispenser. When I pulled it out, my teenaged sister remarked, "I like how Santa chose to leave behind his likeness."
posted by dean_deen at 5:10 PM on December 2, 2012

My dad likes to buy me, uh, unusual candy or snacks, mostly from Asian and Hispanic grocery stores (think mango candy covered in chili powder that looks like spaghetti or dried squid snacks) and then we all sort of sit around and pick at them, usually to hilarious effect, though every now and then we find a gem that we end up devouring. We also have this fugly red deer toy and a bright orange gummy lizard toy that end up in a mystery stocking - we move them around throughout the time the stockings are up - and it's just kind of a goofy "oh remember this weird thing?" musical chairs.

Aside from that, usually a chocolate orange and/or other candy. Sometimes little stuff like nail polish or other small toiletries when I was a teen/now, when I was a kid, more dollar store type toys or games.
posted by jorlyfish at 5:54 PM on December 2, 2012

Oh, and it wasn't in our stockings, but our house Christmas boxes that come down from the attic every year contain, in addition to ornaments and lights and some seasonal pictures books, the following:

-A miniature wooden German man in lederhosen who falls down drunk when you push a button
-Tiny fur-lined "idiot mittens" (on a string) that both kids wore when we were small
-A couple of old, special kids' books from my parents' childhoods (like the one about the wee boy who shears his pet sheep, takes the wool to the spinner, takes the yarn to the dyer, takes the blue yarn to the weaver, the cloth to the tailor, and takes home a new blue suit.)

Along the lines of 'oh, remember this weird thing?', it was always one of my favorite parts of the start of the holiday season.
posted by heyforfour at 6:04 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

WOW..60 answers and nobody said COAL.
posted by PaulBGoode at 6:24 PM on December 2, 2012

Mine always had candy and/or cookies. Like others above, I was allowed to open my stocking before my parents got up.
posted by radioamy at 6:53 PM on December 2, 2012

I was 19 and my mom put condoms in mine.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:56 PM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I always received the family ornament. My aunt makes an ornament each year with the date on it and my name. These are usually just dollar store ornaments modified in some way. I also enjoyed getting movie tickets and chocolate.
posted by haplesschild at 7:01 PM on December 2, 2012

I can do you better than condoms and tampons. My dad got lazy one year (well, every year) and pulled out his public health swag.

Which is how, three months after I got married, I received a keychain featuring a tiny mirror labeled I AM THE FACE OF ABSTINENCE!

We were already a year into an eventual five (and divorce) without sex. I don't think my dad had any way of knowing how right he was.
posted by Madamina at 7:04 PM on December 2, 2012 [16 favorites]

My family: orange in the toe, chocolate coins, jar of pickled onions, assorted wrapped presents that were small enough to fit.
My partner's family: those little individual-serving boxes of sugary cereal. It was the one time of year they got to eat that sort of thing.
posted by atropos at 7:17 PM on December 2, 2012

Mom absolutely always put a tangerine way down in the toe, then added a toothbrush, a candy cane and a little bag of those gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins, plus some kind of small toy. The stockings were always hung on the outside doorknob of our bedrooms; we were allowed to open the door and grab the stockings as early as we wanted, as long as we played quietly in our rooms and didn't even think of waking up Mom & Dad until 6am.

Oh, and PaulBGoode, about the coal? We kept up the stocking tradition as a family joke long past when we all grew up and moved out; one year, when several of us were sleeping over on Christmas Eve, Mom slept late and forgot to fill our stockings --- so we filled hers with charcoal.
posted by easily confused at 7:18 PM on December 2, 2012

My family's Jewish, but my grandmother put out stockings for her kids so they wouldn't feel too left out, and mom continued the tradition. She also shared her secret for more awesome goodies - use a pair of pantyhose, not a sock. You would not believe what you can stuff in those.

I would usually get a can of pringles (full size: see above, re: pantyhose) and whatever little bitty Lego set mom could find that looked appealing, along with various candy canes, chocolates, gelt (see above, re: Jewish) and other snacks. It was definitely just for fun, although I always loved the Legos.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:20 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The annual edition of Life magazine.
posted by Leezie at 7:21 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hand crank wind up emergency radio.
De-icer in a can.
AAA Membership.
posted by NoraCharles at 7:49 PM on December 2, 2012

Oranges, mixed nuts in the shell, 50¢ pieces in the toe an lots and lots of little plastic horses.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:00 PM on December 2, 2012

We would get some small trinket, a tiny mug/keychain/stickers/whatever, with our name misspelled or slightly wrong (i.e. Brennon instead of Brendon) printed on it.

My mother thought it was hysterical, every single time.
posted by Dynex at 8:38 PM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

These things were somewhat standard inasmuch as we had any real traditions, but appreciated: orange, coin of metal or chocolate, calendar (mine was always a horse calendar, rolled into a tube), Pringles (had no idea this was a thing!), and the Lifesavers storybook (of which I only ate the buttered rum and cherry, and traded the rest).

These things were just puzzling: mixed nuts in their shells - with no nutcracker or other implement in the house, seemingly inviting small children to hit wee rolling objects with full size hammers for the frustrating result of smashed shell, pulverised nutmeat, and crushed wee fingers...wait, no, that was the only puzzling thing, because our grown-ups were mostly thoughtful and we were grateful.
posted by batmonkey at 10:02 PM on December 2, 2012

Pistol ammo. Just kidding.

Pez, chocolate, nuts, underwear,socks, you know, the usual.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:25 PM on December 2, 2012

We always got a peach in the toe.

And a packet of water balloons. Which led to the great Christmas Afternoon Waterfight tradition.

(We were in New Zealand, so Christmas was in summer. I imagine the WTF factor would be high if you did that in the northern hemisphere.)
posted by lollusc at 11:04 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

The stockings were never those thick, purpose made things that hide the contents. The stockings we used were large men's rugby socks, so the outline of every present bulged out. Very. Exciting.

Also, there was never, ever, anything to do with school or homework or anything boring.

Chocolate coins. Two walnuts. A clementine. Always something small that needed to be built there and then. A piece of candy that would be consumed on the spot. A bigger bag of candy for later. At least one present that was not just stocking filler but properly exciting or useful. A chocolate orange.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:15 AM on December 3, 2012

I'm 30 and I effing love stockings.

Things in our stocking every year:
- a toothbrush
- chocolate coins
- chapstick
- christmas socks

One year I had a bottle of garlic powder in my stocking. I loved garlic and was putting garlic powder on EVERYTHING (especially Mr. Noodles) back then, so it was totally great.

Also, to this day my mom always wraps each individual item in our stocking. Every. Single. item. Stockings are my favourite part because they take so long do go through and there are so many things to unwrap!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:45 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

It bares saying that the garlic powder year I was maybe 11 years old. I still remember how excited I was about it, and now, 19 years later, it is still a hilarious and awesome memory.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:52 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My in-laws travel a lot so we always get hotel soap and shampoo in our stockings. Wait, I mean Santa stopped in Mumbai on his way and picked up somethings.
posted by vespabelle at 7:22 AM on December 3, 2012

As a kid: one Hershey chocolate bar and one orange. The orange inevitably got ignored.

As an adult: My husband and I like to surprise each other, but there's usually a variety of geeky candy.
posted by ninjakins at 7:24 AM on December 3, 2012

posted by kidsleepy at 8:15 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

On single occasions, a rubber chicken and a fake severed hand.

On the tradition front, we'd get a rolled- up magazine, an orange, a ziplock bag of pistachios.
posted by RobotHero at 8:34 AM on December 3, 2012

The omnipresent orange of course, plus a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. My orange was always on top though, so I find all of these oranges in the stocking toes fascinating!
posted by platinum at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2012

About the orange: just today I was looking through some Christmas books from the 1940s and 50s. In one there was a little cartoon essay about Christmas traditions of old, drawn by Lee Mero, a guy from a Scandinavian-American background who was born in Minnesota in 1885. It mentioned (verbatim) "the orange for the toe" of the stocking as being a tradition in his depiction of 1900.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:08 PM on December 3, 2012

A Terry's Chocolate Orange (though once or twice it was a raspberry because the store was out of oranges, I guess), dental supplies of all sorts, and random plastic trinkets. The best plastic trinket—and the only one I still have—was a wind-up monkey that did backflips.
posted by Maecenas at 8:08 AM on December 4, 2012

An apple and an orange. When the Santa myth was over we would sometimes also get random canned food from the pantry, bascially to piss us off.

Also there was always a lotto ticket, sometimes chapstick.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:42 AM on December 4, 2012

mollymayhem: "Everyone got socks and underwear."

It's only as an adult that I've realized the value of a steady supply of new socks and underwear.

As a registered cheapskate, I never treat myself to expensive socks or underwear.

Coincidentally, I'm wearing the awesome Smartwool socks that my dad got me for Christmas two years ago, and plan to do laundry tonight so I can wear them again tomorrow.

I have lots of other socks, but these. Are. The. Best, and I will never be able to convince myself to buy more for myself, because I can get 24 adequately-good socks for $5 at H&M.

Also, my parents had a knack for hiding gifts in the hardest to find places in the house. They knew where each sibling would and wouldn't look, and made it as difficult as possible. One year, the stocking just contained a card (which I think had a photo that was vaguely but un-guessably related to the gift) that only contained the message "Did you really think it was going to be that easy? Keep looking. Also, here's a toothbrush."

Bonus points if you make it into a puzzle.
posted by schmod at 2:35 PM on December 4, 2012

Oh, and one time I got a bag of lentils. I think my mom was trying to clean out her cupboard.

I've also toyed around with the idea of filling our stockings with an assortment of Manischewitz products.
posted by schmod at 2:37 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not Christmas if there aren't nail clippers in our stockings.
posted by stampsgal at 3:53 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Assuming my mom can find them, we often get chocolate Maccabees.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:03 PM on December 4, 2012

"the orange for the toe" of the stocking as being a tradition in his depiction of 1900.

It goes way back, to a time when oranges were a rare luxury and they were only in season at the end of the fall. There are great records in New England of people jumping up and down because coastal schooners were landing in December loaded with Florida citrus. I totally plan to do this for any children I might have because hey, that's a long tradition (and one that unites you with a lot of people as this thread demonstrates, and also is a great reminder that something so simple can be a great gift).

Funny to see how consistent a lot of these are! So, we also had oranges, chocolate coins, 50-cent and dollar coins, some clever way of presenting a $2 bill, candy canes, those weird red fizzy strawberry hard candies from Figi's, nuts, and those "books" containing 8 or 10 rolls of LifeSavers candy. We also always got these little foil-wrapped German chocolate ornaments in various shapes - Santas, pigs, soldiers, nutcrackers, etc. - these were sold at a deli near us and we found them exotic!

Other common things were toy cars (Matchbox type), decks of cards (or things like Uno, Mille Bournes, Old Maid, Crazy 8s), English candy bars for my brother who was enthralled with English candy after a trip there, CHristmas socks/earrings/necklaces/pins, sometimes handmade by my crafty grandmother, bookmarks, small bottles of lotion or bubble bath, drugstore fragrance like Jean Nate (go 70s!), Mad Libs or word game books, stickers, hair ties/barrettes, small notebooks, chapstick, silly putty, jacks, funny fake eyeglasses, etc.

My family seems to just find it high-larious to wrap up the same things over and over to give to each other. For many years in the 90s we had a "Christmas Story" theme going where we wrapped up my Dad's can of Simoniz to give to him. WE got pretty good at disguising it differently each year. One year we finally got him a blue bowling ball and after that we really couldn't top ourselves any more. But yeah, it's funny in that 'oh, my crazy family' way to have a surprise gift that reappears year to year whether you want it or not.
posted by Miko at 8:28 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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