I don’t remember exactly what Christmas it was, but I know I was a little girl.

Probably no more than 6 or 7, and oh, how I loved not just Christmas, but the run-up to all the holidays. It was a time of decking the halls with decorations we made and hung in our classroom at school to the more elaborate ones we bought and had at home. Each year, Mom would take us to the store as soon as the new tree ornaments came out for the season and let us each pick out a new ornament for our tree.

When I was very young we had a fake tree. Mom always corrected us by saying, “Don’t say fake. Nothing about Christmas is fake. It’s an artificial tree because getting a live tree is just too much work right now.” So every year we’d grouse and moan a bit, but by the time the lights and tinsel and our new ornaments joined the old ones, our tree looked pretty good indeed.

We loved helping Mom and Grandma make the Christmas candy, pies and a lot of other goodies that we only had once a year, but that made them all the more special, Daddy said. Looking back now, the “help” we offered was more in the tasting than in actual work, but those once-a-year treats were so good that from Thanksgiving on we were begging to start baking those cookies and treats ahead so we could “help out.”

But it was the Christmas when I was 6 or 7 that things changed. As we were hanging our stockings on the mantle that Christmas Eve, all giddy with expectation and wondering how we’d ever sleep that night, Daddy said that we would find a very special surprise in them the next morning. Well, the buzz started, all of us wondering what that very special surprise might be. My little brother was sure Santa would leave some sort of voucher so we could go to the farm and get a pony. I was hoping for one of those new dolls I had seen on television, the kind that both walked and talked. And of course, we were chattering on about all kinds of candies and trinkets.

Imagine our surprise when we awoke the next morning when it was still dark, ran down the stairs, and found our stockings hanging, but half full. “Why are they half full?” I wondered aloud. “Look!” my brother exclaimed incredulously. “There’s a hole in the bottom of them all, even Mommy’s and Daddy’s.” He was right. At the bottom of each of our stockings was a perfectly cut hole, allowing much of the contents to drop to the floor.

There was also a big note taped to the mantle that said:

TO EVERYONE WHO LIVES HERE: I have cut a hole in the bottom of all your stockings on purpose. Do not eat what has dropped on the floor. I did this because I love you, but I love all the children around the world to whom I deliver. Many of them can’t afford a nice Christmas like you can. Some live right in your own town. So what I want you to do is after you finished your breakfast, fill the new stockings I have left in a bag under your tree and take them to the local hospital children’s floor or the food pantry to make sure that kids just like yourselves have a sweet and Merry Christmas. I know you will do this because just as you believe in me, I believe in the goodness of you. Merry Christmas,

Love,

Santa

And that’s how our tradition began and has endured. It’s been many years since that hole-in-the-stocking Christmas, but we continue to hang up our stockings every year, and we always have a few with holes in them to remind us of those whose luck has fallen through the cracks but need a little Christmas cheer as well. So I always prepare a few stockings in advance and deliver them to the local food pantry. They are filled to the brim with candy and small toys and fun things ... and always, always, I put in each of the stockings a new pair of fresh, warm socks.

Happy holidays to all of you. May your feet always be warm and dry, your bellies full, and may your Christmas stockings always have a hole in the bottom.

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at six07co@att.net or 401-539-7762.

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