How would your kids react this Christmas if they emptied their Christmas stocking and found an apple, an orange, and handful of peanuts in the shell, and a shiny penny? I suspect you’d get a “what the…?!” face. Maybe some tears.
On the contrary, in our family those items are the capstone to whatever else may be in the stocking. And if ever absent (which they’ve never been), it would be more than disappointment—it would be a severe violation of family protocol.
Gail and I have written about how frozen pizza and root beer before the Thanksgiving feast and other Andersen traditions have been important to our family’s culture and bond. Most of those traditions originated with our own immediate family when our kids were young.
But if you’re fortunate to have traditions that span a couple generations or more, those can help instill a deeper appreciation in your family and generations to come of your family’s heritage.
An Apple, An Orange, Peanuts, And A Shiny Penny
Okay—back to those stocking stuffers. They span five generations now and I’m doing my best to make sure it continues.
It started in my dad’s home in rural Iowa in the late 1930’s. You probably know enough history to remember that times were tough then economically. There wasn’t much to go under a Christmas tree in those days yet my grandparents did what they could. It amounted to an apple, an orange, a handful of peanuts in the shell, and a shiny penny in each Christmas stocking.
Those items today are so common and inexpensive they would feel like an insult to give. Yet in my dad’s family back then, they were not only treats, but a bright spot in tough times and a token of hope for better days.
To have a piece of fruit in the middle of Iowa during the winter was almost extravagant. Peanuts in the shell were just great fun. A penny was a big deal considering the personal income per capita back then was less than $500 per year! Put some shine on the penny to make it look brand new and it appears even more valuable.
These don’t have the same meaning today in and of themselves. We can buy fruit everyday. Peanuts are cheap as dirt—and we don’t even have to pop them from the shell if we don’t want to. Pennies are more of a nuisance than anything.
Except in our Christmas stockings.
Deepen Appreciation For Your Family Heritage
These simple, and unusual stocking stuffers remind us that…
- There is more family than just us. There’s something special about being part of something bigger than yourself. Appreciating your family heritage gives a greater sense of belonging and identity. It makes us unique.
Our ancestors are worth remembering. It’s honoring to do so. Honor your father and mother. And theirs.
What was important to our ancestors can be to us. The apple, orange, peanuts, and penny don’t have the intrinsic meaning to us as they did to my dad and his siblings. But what they stood for is still relevant. Celebrating the good in life at all times. Hope for better tomorrows. Love of family.
What we do today impacts those who follow us. Whether you do so consciously or not, you are leaving a legacy. Do it on purpose. I seriously doubt that my grandparents ever thought their simple acts of love would be carried on for generations, much less written about. But they are.
Carry Forward And Build Your Own Generational Traditions
My favorite part of Christmas Eve preparation is putting these special items in our stockings. Gail faithfully does the shopping in advance. Pennies are shined by using a simple pencil eraser.
It reminds me of special Christmases past. I remember my dad, who’s now been gone forty years. And I thank God for His every blessing on our family—no matter how simple or seemingly insignificant.
Perhaps you don’t have any generational traditions. Start some with your family this year. Build memories—and lessons—worth repeating.
Question: What meaningful generational tradition do you continue in your family? Share your answer in the comments below.