Oh, I nail it on the big stuff. Mr. D got a vintage and fully functioning pinball machine last year for Christmas. Team Testosterone has been lavished with Legos and bicycles and a mini-four-wheeler and Airsoft guns. But asking me to stuff a stocking is like asking me to speak fluent Chinese or rewire the basement. Ain't gonna happen, kids.
The problem is that we live surrounded by Dutch people. This normally isn't a problem, Dutch people are generally neat and tidy and hardworking. Dutch people have all kinds of quaint traditions brought over from the Old Country, like planting tulip bulbs in their gardens. But Dutch people also celebrate St. Nicholas Eve. I'm not clear on the origins of this tradition, but basically it's a "starter" for Christmas. Every year on December 5th all the kids living around these parts hang their stockings and they wake up on December 6th to stockings chock-full of treats and toys.
No, I am not kidding you.
And there is no way you can send your kid to school around here and ignore that tradition because you end up with sad, neglected-feeling kids who think Santa hates them and their Christmas will suck rocks because if they can't even manage to get anything good in the starter stocking, the prospects for a decent haul under the tree in twenty more days are bleak.
St. Nicholas Eve isn't some made-up commercial enterprise like that Elf on the Shelf (which we do NOT do, nor do we do leprechaun gifts). This is an Old Country Tradition that's been around for over a century, as integral to the Christmas season as putting up a tree or baking cookies. These Dutch people have been doing it forever and they'll continue to do it forever and if you live in their midst, you either join in or come up with a good explanation of why you don't. I've got a 9-year-old who still believes, so we go along with it for now. (But kids, mommy is NOT going to keep doing this like some of your friends' families. You will NOT get St. Nick's gifts mailed to you at college. Actually, you won't even get St. Nick's gifts once you get into high school because I'm a good sport and all, but that is pushing my limit.) (Seriously, people around here even mail St. Nick's stockings to their college kids. I am not kidding you.)
The first barrier with this holiday is remembering the date. You definitely do NOT want to forget and have your kid head to school December 6th and hear all about everyone else's stocking loot and come home in tears. But this is such a confusing and random holiday that every year I have to ask, "So, which day is St. Nick's?" You hang your stocking on the 5th, find it full on the 6th. That's important to know. Around here, most of the stores have discreet little cards explaining this posted by the cash registers which has helped me and my offspring avoid trauma on December 6th.
The second barrier is filling the stocking. Here's the thing: there's always some asshole parent who sets the bar unimaginably high. They give their kid an iPod or video games or some other big-deal-gift that really shouldn't show up until December 25th. The trick is
But this year--OH, THIS YEAR I NAILED IT.
Team Testosterone is getting candy, but for that something extra, that trinket toy to make their eyes light up with joy? They are getting
CANS OF SILLY STRING.