On the night before Christmas when I was young, my parents, sister, and I would gather around the fireplace. As my dad lit the fire, my mom would pass out paper and pencils. All four of us would then sit in silence as we wrote our notes to Santa. When we were tiny, these notes were filled with wishes for specific dolls and toys, and occasionally a kitten. As we got older, though, the notes were more wishes for health and happiness for our friends and family. They also contained thanks for the good times throughout the year. After we completed our notes, we took turns placing them in the fire and watching them burn. If the ashes flew up the chimney, your note made it directly to Santa.
As a kid, I just thought that this was a typical thing to do on Christmas Eve. As I got older, and friends talked about their traditions, I soon learned that it wasn't. My parents brought this wonderful tradition, along with several others, from their childhood in England and Scotland.
I always love hearing about how different families celebrate the holidays, and the traditions that they include. One that fascinates me most is how Santa can remember how each family wants him to treat Christmas stockings.
In our house growing up, my sister and I would place our stockings on our bedposts. When we woke up, I'd gather my stash of presents and head into my sister's room. We'd each dump all the wrapped gifts and the inevitable orange (possibly another British tradition?) in a pile, and select a similar gift from our stockings to unwrap at the same time. Some years the gifts were labeled with matching numbers or letters, and other years they were wrapped in matching paper (usually scraps left over from previous year's bigger gifts). We enjoyed admiring each gift before we scrambled for the next.
In our house, the Santa presents were always on the smaller side--pencils, socks, candy, hand lotion, etc. The larger presents were under our tree and from our family. I always assumed that this was the case for all families. In my friend's family, however, Santa brings the big gifts--video game consoles, bikes, puppies, etc.--since that is what Santa did in her house when she grew up. I am always amazed how Santa is able to keep straight which families want him to give bigger gifts, and which prefer smaller gifts. He must keep a very details list in his sleigh. If you are a parent with young kids, be sure to tell Santa now if he should bring the big or small gifts so he can keep track.
Santa only has a couple of days left to shop, so if he puts smaller gifts to your kids' stockings, here is a little list you may want to share with him to help him out:
hot cocoa mix
tooth brush/tooth paste
Lego mini figures
character band aids
crayons/colored pencils/smelly markers
cool pillow case
small stuffed animal
music CD/iTunes gift car