five christmas suggestions…

by | Dec 19, 2019 | Uncategorized | 42 comments

This isn’t a list of musts and shoulds.  I’m pretty sure we all have enough of those on our plate right now and we’re eagerly awaiting the day when things slow down…Christmas is done, the presents are opened, our bellies are full, and we can just have a moment without a pressing must-do or should-do list.

So, there are no obligations in this post.  These are things I’ve enjoyed that aren’t as mainstream as caroling, gingerbread, and watching Elf.

If I enjoyed them, you might, too…

Secrets in the Dark

Last week, we had the privilege of attending a Jason Gray concert at our church.  We saw him in February and it was an evening that was good for the soul.  It was worshipful and encouraging.  The day of the Christmas concert, though, was on the heels of a busy week and I was fighting a headache all day.  It was tempting to stay home and Jeff even gave me that option.  But, it didn’t feel like one more thing to do…it felt like something I needed to do.  For myself.

And I’m so glad I did because it was a wonderful night.  As a part of the concert, he read a couple of stories from a book he drew inspiration from for his Christmas album.  I loved the writing style and the way the author brought Bible stories to life in a way that puts you in the shoes of the players in that story.  It’s easy to think of the shepherds, kings, innkeeper, etc. as characters, not as real people.  But they were real people and while they were in a different time and place, they weren’t so different from us.

As Jason was reading, I kept trying to get an angle to see the title of the book or the author, but I was sitting on the wrong side and there wasn’t much hope I’d be able to read the title even if I had a good vantage point.  So, after the concert, I slinked up on stage and took a picture of the cover.  The book is Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons and I immediately put it in my Amazon shopping cart.  I’m looking forward to reading more.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

I watched this movie last year and it will be a Christmas movie staple for me.  It’s the story of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol and changed the way we view and celebrate Christmas.  I also loved watching the portrayal of his creative process…walking through the streets of London looking for characters, collecting names and inspiration.

You can rent or buy this movie on iTunes or it’s available through the Showtime subscription on Amazon Prime.  Here’s the official trailer (and it is kid-friendly)…

Non-Junk Stocking Stuffers

Let me gripe about stocking stuffers for a minute.  Advertisers promote gift cards and small electric gadgets, candy, and junky toys for stocking stuffers.  Now, I’m all for buying the kids some treats and putting them in their stocking, but I cringe at the “stocking stuffer aisle” that is filled with junk no one will care about or want in a week.  And the good stuff, the gift cards and electronics add up so fast!  You could spend hundreds of dollars on stuffers before you even get to the “big presents!”  It doesn’t feel thoughtful, but like something that has to be done to fill a specific space.

Okay, rant done.  

So, I wanted to share what my parents did.  They got a few small presents and filled up the rest of the space with seasonal fruits and nuts.  And every Christmas morning, I would peel, section, and eat a couple of my clementines as I opened presents.

The ones we didn’t eat right away ended up in the nut bowl or the fruit bowl, but I never remember feeling disappointed or shortchanged.  And, you can always mix in some chocolate and candy canes.  Hershey Kisses are always a winner with my boys.


Jeff picked out this boardgame for the boys last year and it’s been a real winner.  It is a “settler” game where you build villages, cities, and roads, while collecting and trading resources.  It’s complicated enough to make the game interesting, but it has a clear end to it (unlike a game like Monopoly that I don’t think I’ve ever finished in my life!)  There are also all sorts of expansion packs to make it work for more players or to add more components and various ways to play.  If you’re “board game people”, I’d suggest giving it a try!

Shop like there’s no Internet (at least once)

I really do love the convenience of online shopping, gift cards, and being able to buy just the right thing for someone from a link they send.  It makes Christmas shopping so much easier and people get what they really want, but I have to admit that it also takes something away.  The other day, I was remembering the time when we’d plan a day at the mall and we’d browse stores, looking for gifts for everyone on our list.  We’d then wrap them, pack them in boxes, and take them to the post office to ship out.  Remember those days when we didn’t have something sent directly to the person from Amazon?!

Well, yesterday, I went to the mall and I browsed around looking for a few more gifts to check everyone off our list.  Yes, it took more time, but I found so much more joy and satisfaction in it.

So, I would encourage doing that with at least one gift.

What things have you enjoyed in Christmases past?


  1. BettyBeth

    Our three children are in their thirties and they go for the stockings first! That’s really where I put their stash! Gift cards for Starbucks, the movie theater, and Hobby Lobby. The two boys always get some kind of flashlight and those long lighters-for the grill, etc. My daughter gets nail polish, some inexpensive but stylish jewelry.
    They still have their hand embroidered stockings from childhood.
    It’s just something I enjoying doing!

    • Kaylee

      I’m glad I’m not the only one still doing stockings for adult children. 🙂 I was going to stop this year and my 24 year old son, said “No Mom, stockings are my favorite part. Please keep doing them.” So I will. I always put fun things like some lottery tickets in there along with candy and if I give candy I must give toothbrushes and toothpaste. They love it!

  2. Kristyn

    My mom always put an orange in our stockings as her mom before her did. Now I put them in my kids stockings with a couple quality candies and a small meaningful gift. 😊❤️ Ps- we also love Catan and The Man who Invented Christmas!

  3. Susan

    I do my shopping in thrifts. Hand painted old dish…sister…wooden handcrafted rein in law. Unused paints and brushes ..artist nephew in law….old tinted photographs in frames…nephew

  4. Kimberly Carnegie Bruhn

    I’m with Susan…I shop all year long at estate, yard and tag sales….at this stage in my and my friend’s lives…finding something vintage and unique is the only way to truly surprise someone. If I got a particularly good ‘deal,” I will Minnie Pearl it and leave the price tag on! Merry Christmas!

    • Pa

      Kimberly, I love that idea….only those of a certain age will understand a “Minnie Pearl!” 🙂

  5. Teresa

    There is a blogger who has two boys and they gave their boys four gifts for Christmas. Something they want, something they need, something to do and something to read. The something to do may be a surprise family trip planned for the future or some special activity planned for the family. I really like this concept as I think it cuts down on giving more meaningful gifts rather than just buying a bunch of toys and other stuff they will lose interest in after a few days or weeks.

    They always give them a special personal keepsake gift in their stocking each year as well. I liked this idea so much I did something similar with my six year old great-nephew this year. I am giving him something for fun, something to do and something to learn.

  6. Kathie

    my kids are 39 and 41 and almost ALL of their gifts are thrifted and they want it that way. one collects vintage Pyrex and the other loves old paint by number paintings. so much better that way. i am on the hunt all year long and it’s fun for me as well. so much more personal. i ask them to fill up a box with books from the thrift store and i am happy all year!!!

    • Teresa

      I love getting vintage gifts too Kathie. My Mom always give me something vintage each year from her year long hunts. Its funny because I was in a consignment store yesterday and saw lots of vintage Pyrex someone had brought in. Sometimes you can find it really cheap at local Goodwills but its hit or miss.

    • Helene

      LOVE this for so many reasons!

  7. Lorie Pirtle

    Never finished a game of Monopoly. That made me laugh. I have a game saved in my attic (we wrote down the money, where every player was, etc) to finish at a later time. That was when my son was 9. He turned 30 last September. The game is still there in the attic.

  8. Pamela

    I cannot do malls at the holidays. I think I have PTSD from my former years in retail!

    I *DO* shop locally, though – at boutiques, small stores – anything that’s not a chain.

  9. Maureen

    Catan is one of my perennial favorie games!! If you’re looking for one in a similar vein, try Ticket to Ride (or Ticket to Ride Rails and Sails for the more complicated version).

  10. Rochelle

    My parents always filled our stockings with an orange, an apple, some nuts, candy and a candy cane, plus a couple of little surprises. We always went for the stockings first, and always had a good time going through them.

  11. Leslie C.

    I have a full grown son and he still wants his stocking filled, it’s his favorite Christmas gift. He prefers this over presents. I fill it the same as I did when he was a child. Nuts, an orange, chocolate candy, an adult trinket, a book or music, gift card and I always put in a toothbrush & tooth paste. He just loves it after all these years.

  12. Sheri

    We have always done stockings since our girls were born and I truly think if they were the only thing we did on Christmas morning everyone would still be happy. It’s even more fun now that they are adults and add their own special contributions to my husband and my stockings. Some gifts are funny, some are sentimental items being passed on from grandparents, some are things found on trips throughout the year, some are homemade items, but all are given with a lot of thought and love. And, yes, there is always a mandarin orange in the toe!

  13. Charlotte

    We don’t have any children yet but when I moved in, we started doing stockings in our apartment. I bought velvet like stockings and trimmed them out by hand with some decorative gimp and bells. We had those stockings through two apartments, living with his parents and now our own home. We always fill each other’s stocking with favorite candy and useful gifts. Like the telescoping backscratcher that I put in his which is still his favorite gift to this day. We’ve looked at Catan before but weren’t sure about it. I think we will have to pick it up now!!!!

  14. Betsy

    Marion, thank you for touching upon the subject of mall shopping. Actually any shopping that isn’t online. There are so many people in our area working in these shops to supplement their incomes. Either they’re senior citizens or low income families. Our malls have many shops closing and people are losing these jobs. Shopping locally is a way to help our neighbors.

  15. Karen K from Buffalo

    I’m glad the “orange” in the stocking tradition is being carried on. It reminds me of my childhood where my “Santa” would always put a tangerine in first & then some Hershey Kisses & a few trinkets. My Mother later told me that my Father’s Christmas was very, very limited & he only received an orange as a gift. They lived on a farm & they were extremely poor, so they were only offered an orange, which at that time was hard to get. My Dad was born in 1920 so that is going way back. Fruits & nuts are a sensible treat.

  16. mary m young

    My mother who was born in Ohio in 1904. She often spoke of the simple Christmas with a treasured orange and nuts in their stockings. She continued the tradition with us. I gave up on stockings because at last count there were 1 5 stockings. you have to realized that immediate families grow and grow. they have stockings in their own homes.

  17. Patty Soriano

    We always got fruit and nuts in our stockings. I love that memory to remind me of my mom and dad who are gone now. I do not shop online. I love the time to reflect on finding the prefect gift for family or friends. I do not have very many people that I shop for, so this is something I really do for me….and gives me the chance to interact with others for that holiday spirit

    • Victoria

      Just wondering if there will be Parsons family Christmas performance this year? I realize with your move and your surgery it may not be possible. We look forward to these each Christmas.

  18. Char

    When my boys were very young I started the tradition of a fun pair of socks in their stockings. I’d hunt for socks that connected to whatever they were into at the time. The tradition has grown to include in-laws and grandkids.

    • D

      I also always had an orange in my stocking! Another lovely gift for the person who has everything is to make a donation in their name to a charity like Samaritan’s Purse. They have a Christmas catalog…. buy baby chicks for a family or provide food for children in an orphanage for instance.

  19. Zanetta

    Every year I shop for the gifts I give and make some . My sister and Mom especially loves those pieces. Initially, It was because I had no money, now, it’s because it’s made with love. This year my foot is broken and I have been forced to purchase online and let me say, “I do not like it one bit.”
    I’m missing the days of oranges and fruit in stockings hung for the children who are now grown and pop in for a quick visit. As I hosted Christmas Eve for about 30 family members, it was my tradition to begin our meal (soups, ciders, snacks) with the sighting of the first star that night. Music playing and candles lit, it as a magical night for memories. We’d sing carols in our beautiful harmonizing voices and Skype my daughter who couldn’t join.
    Does anyone remember receiving a brown paper bag of fruit from school? Every child got one. I’ve enjoyed reading this post. Merry Christmas to you all.

  20. Kelley

    Marian, you brought me back to my childhood. My mom always put oranges, apples, and nuts in my stocking and I never knew any different. She grew up extremely poor, and this was a treat for her and her siblings, and she continued it with me. I did vary it a little for my own children, but the smell of apples always reminds me of Christmas. My mom passed last year, and I think I need to start this tradition again. ❤️

  21. Ann B.

    We always got fruits, nuts and candy in our stockings (that were actually the biggest socks we could find). There were no other gifts in the stockings. The fruit, nuts and candy were very special in themselves, because people back then couldn’t afford to have these items in their house year around. A tradition my mama did was surprising us occasionally during the Christmas season with an orange or tangerine and saying one of Santa’s “brownies” came by and left it for us.

  22. Bonnie K

    An orange in the toe of your stocking is a must for our family! My mother said that was a special treat when she was a girl, since oranges were not available all year.

  23. Michelle

    Catan is a family favorite! So glad y’all have discovered it!

  24. Hannah

    I love Frederick Buechner! I have two of his novels, ‘Godric’ and ‘Brendan’ and I loved them both, particularly Godric, it’s very good. We have ‘secrets in the dark’ too, I haven’t read that, but I will now! It’s funny that your husband bought the ‘settlers of Catan’ game for your kids, my husband did the same this year for ours. For Christmas stockings as a kid I too received a Clementine in the toe, nuts, a few candies and a small gift. My sisters and I would open our presents under the tree first, eat some chocolate, play with some gifts (or read a new book!) and then open stockings. I never felt short changed either. This year, I’m going to put Pomegranates in the boys stockings, they love them and rarely get them, so that will be a nice surprise. Merry Christmas, Miss Mustard Seed!

  25. Caroline O'Hara

    My mom (also born in the 1920s and poor) always put an orange in the toe too, as it was a very rare treat in her childhood. No nuts, although they were always put out with nutcrackers at Christmas time. The rest was all candy! Lots of chocolate and other traditional Christmas candy including a candy cane. For my own children, who are now 27, 25, and 18, I still do stockings with candy plus new socks of various sorts and maybe a small piece of jewelry or one small gift card. I stopped doing the oranges after remembering my teenage orange disaster—I tended to save my Christmas candy to savor it, but one year I forgot to remove the orange! It rotted and in washing my stocking, most of the glitter and color came off my beloved stocking. And I agree with you about the silly, poor-quality “stocking stuffers” the stores promote—what a waste.

  26. Jan Cohen

    Definitely shop local and help out artisans and any business without an on-line store.

  27. Brenda

    My husband and I have had this discussion for years. Vintage treasures! He always feels bad about buying me a “used” gift. I always argue that if I ask for an addition to my depression glass collection or a china teacup it’s truly something I would want. I love putting apples, oranges and nuts into stockings. Unfortunately I haven’t done that since my son left his stocking in his room with the orange still in it. At least it petrified instead of rotting. Merry Christmas all!

  28. Jan Fusco

    I love my memories of getting in to my stocking on ‘Christmas morning. I’m 65 so it’s been a while. My stocking always had an orange, apple and a banana sticking out the top. The orange was always in the toe. We had an assortment of chocolates and I remember as a child getting jacks and a jump rope. To tell you the truth, I can’t really remember what the “gift” items were as I grew older. I do remember there was a 20.00 dollar bill wrapped around the orange in the toe one year. I still have my sweet stocking and it still has a stain where I spilt some sort of beverage on it.
    I hope you and your family have a wonderfully blessed Christmas.

  29. mimi

    In our family, Santa filled the stockings and mom & dad put the presents under the tree. Once the two discovered mom was Santa– I asked how they wanted the stockings done now. They said they wanted to do them. The two shop together for my husband and I– if I drive, I stay in the car and read a book while they shop. Then they do each other’s stockings. One has gotten really creative and doing themes for the other one. I know of one mother who has 8 children and she has added a stocking for each new spouse. She fills each of them up with fruit, nuts, homemade candy and a letter of gratitude or what she noticed they did during the year or what they overcame or how they grew in the year. It’s really touching.

  30. SueA

    Don’t forget the comic book that sticks out the top of the stocking! I remember buying a “junk” toy for my young son–a spiderman figure with a parachute. One of his favorite of all time! Ya never know…

  31. Jeannie

    We never had stockings as kids. I did stockings for my boys until they got old enough to know that I was doing it. That stuff costs so much so I asked them if they wanted stockings or one other major gift. They chose the gift. Which was actually less expensive. My grandson gets a stocking though. I have a cross stitch one to finish for him…someday! Just needs his name & put together but somehow it just doesn’t get done! Merry Christmas to you & your family. Pets for Sebastian & kitties!

  32. Cheri Dietzman

    I also felt like I needed to attend Jason’s concert – and it turns out I did. The evening was just what my soul needed during this busy time of year. And that book! Kirk had seen him mention it on his IG and told me what it was. It is also in my Amazon cart 🙂 .
    Oranges in stockings are in the 4th generation (that we know of) in our family. Kirk’s dad used to get them in his stocking – back then fresh fruit out of season (and most of the time) was an expensive treat for his dad to receive. Later, Kirk and his sister received oranges, then our kids, and now we give oranges to our grandkids in their stockings.

  33. B Folk

    Makes me feel like we are all related…oranges and nuts in our stockings, too. Yes, citrus fruit was a treat back in the first half of the 1900’s, so my parents continued the tradition with us. They filled the stockings and my dad was “Santa”. Woke up to presents under the tree, but the stockings were put out the day before and, somehow, Santa always added a little something to the nuts and orange, too! My favorite “present” as a child was Brach’s chocolate-covered cherries. I was the only one who got them, because I loved them! My mom and grandma usually sewed something for us, too (new robe, slippers, dress, etc.)
    Our pastor “introduced” us to Settlers of Catan. We don’t play any board games, because hubs plays to the death, but it looks interesting.
    My in-laws add a stocking for every new family member, whether that person is able to be at the “family home” for Christmas, or not…up 32 stockings, I think?
    Yep, I am a fan of shopping “the little guys” year ’round, although Michael’s, JoAnn, and HobLob get my money sometimes, too. Not a fan of “presents for presents sake”, I think it’s wasteful and I’d rather not get or give such gifts. Sorry to sound like a humbug… for me, the joy is in the real reason for Christmas, anyway.

  34. celestial

    I received my Christmas present just now, as I spied the mittens I made in the last photo above. Thank you for posting!

    My daughter (age 21) and her friends have been playing Catan for years and I have grown to really like it (and I usually hate board games). We have only tried the standard set up, but she and her friends have the sea version and the knight version, among others. They can do three games in an evening.

    I wish you and your family a blessed Christmas and I hope you continue to inspire us all in 2020.

  35. Michelle

    Jason Gray?!!!! How fun! We work out to his music in the Body&Soul Fitness class I lead. Would love to hear him in in concert! Glad you could 🙂

  36. ornament

    We never had stockings as kids. I received my Christmas present just now, as I spied the mittens I made in the last photo above. My sisters and I would open our presents under the tree first, eat some chocolate, play with some gifts. and I love putting apples, oranges, and nuts into stockings.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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