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What Really Qualifies a Gift as a Stocking Stuffer?

Naturally, we turned to the stocking-stuffing experts here — mall Santas and lingerie models

For Christmas of 2018, my wife and I had booked a trip to Disney World, leaving that evening, so when getting gifts for our three-year-old daughter, we knew we were going to get a lot of Disney stuff. But when we were putting out the presents on Christmas Eve, my wife had the idea of putting an unwrapped Woody doll in our daughter’s stocking. And although this idea was undeniably cute, it did give me slight pause, as it violated both of my long-held rules around stocking stuffers.

Since I was a kid, my mom and brother and I would always open the stockings first, and inside there would be a treasure trove of snacks and small toys. When I began doing Christmas for my own family, I did much the same thing: Stocking stuffers, to me, not only have to fit into the stocking, they’re also fairly cheap, with a price tag of about $10 at most per item. So, for example, if I got my wife some fancy jewelry, that would not go into a stocking because that’s a “bigger” gift, despite the fact that it would easily fit inside of a stocking.

Woody, however, cost about $30 at Target, and he didn’t really fit inside the stocking, either. Still, I put my pedantic rules aside and, of course, my wife turned out to be totally right: Woody was an awesome way to start a Disney-loaded week.

Having since canvased my colleagues, I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one with fairly rigid ideas for stocking stuffers. Miles Klee, who recently honored the Christmas icon that is Mr. Hankey, says, “Everyone should get a scratch-off lottery ticket in their stocking. It’s a must.” Aside from that, he adds, “chocolate and gag gifts” belong in stockings. Nick Leftley, who recently graced us with a tribute to the Grinch’s thicc ass, has much the same rules as I do, saying, “‘Relatively inexpensive’ and ‘fits in the stocking’ are the two criteria that must be met.” Alyson Lewis says, “It depends on the price of the other gifts. If earrings are the star gift, they don’t go in the stocking, but if it’s earrings and a nice necklace, the earrings can go in the stocking. Other stocking gifts are small shit — toothbrushes, a Christmas orange, candy, things like that.” 

I found a bit more variety among my Facebook friends. Le’a Abbate, a makeup artist, says, “Usually the things in the stockings are from Santa, so it’s small gifts or necessities.” Shoshanna James, a flight attendant, adds, “Our tradition is that it is small and has to fit in the stocking, but tends to be the nicest gift. Like nice jewelry or electronics.” 

I get that every family has their own thing, but both of these just seem flat out wrong to me. The nicest gift? What if the nicest gift is a plasma screen TV? Also, “small gifts or necessities” being the sole gifts from Santa also seems crazy to me. If I was a kid and all Santa got me was a toothbrush and some M&Ms, my first thought would have been, “What the fuck does he need the elves for?”

Speaking of elves, I decided to get some expert opinions on the matter, including from a couple of mall Santas and an elf to boot. Santa Russ, a mall Santa in Arizona, agrees wholeheartedly with me, “In the stockings should be some sweets and other small trinkets. Kind of like extra freebies from Santa, but not the main Santa gift. It’s like the toy in your happy meal.”

Gary Hicks, Arizona’s Littlest Santa, adds, “You would need to think of who the stocking belongs to. For kids, I’d say anything small, like candy, fruit and small toys. For someone older, you could do smaller, nicer things. If a nice pair of jewelry was the only ‘big present’ though, then save that for under the tree.” His daughter, who plays his elf and goes by “Sugarplum” this time of year, says that perfume is also a good stocking stuffer.

All useful advice, but then I figured, elves and Santas aren’t the only ones in the know — lingerie models, surely, would also know a thing or two about what can and can’t go into a stocking? To that end, Fah Sky says that perfume specifically should not go into a stocking, as it weighs the stocking down and changes the shape too much. Instead, she recommends “something sexy, like satin pajamas. That way, it will be small and will have a nice touch when she puts her hand in the stocking.” Aside from that, she says stocking stuffers should range from about $10 to $30.

Amanda Kelly, a lingerie model who goes by Kitten with Fangs, says, “My mom is a die-hard Christmas enthusiast and her stocking theory was that it was nothing too expensive, but it also had to be exciting and fun, so she’d also shove in a DVD or something like that. I don’t really do stockings now, but I do think that a giant dildo would make a great stocking stuffer! That would fit perfectly! Though I didn’t get that from my mom. Anyway, you want someone to be surprised or laugh from their stocking — that should be a requirement.”

The final person I turned to helped to put all of this into perspective. Aileen Avery, a gift-giving expert and author of Gift Rap: The History and Art of Gift Giving, tells me, “For my husband, Dave, he always got candy and an orange or apple. My parents were much more practical, as I got toiletries along with a bunch of candy — never fruit. When Dave and I began giving each other stockings, he was shocked by the fancy shaving cream I put in his stocking. I had no idea that was inappropriate!”

She goes on to say, “You learn what goes into a stocking from Santa Claus (aka your parents) at an early age, and then you carry that tradition on as you become an adult and a parent yourself.” 

Given that, I guess it’s much more diplomatic for me to say that nothing is “right” or “wrong” when it comes to stocking stuffers — it all just comes down to your own personal traditions and tastes. So, if my wife wants to put an overpriced Woody doll in a stocking, that should be fine. If Kelly believes that no stocking is complete without a dildo, then, well, good for her. 

‘Tis the season, after all.