The lost art of the Christmas stocking

christmas stocking filler ideasEarlier this week I saw a £140 bottle of perfume being described as a ‘stocking filler’, and found it a bit shocking. You need a few gifts to fill up a Christmas stocking, and it isn’t even the main event, so I suppose they were marketing to the very few people who can still afford to spend thousands on gifts… Anyway, it’s time to reframe the Christmas stocking filler for the vast majority of us – it’s meant to be 1) cheap and 2) cheerful.

Back in the day – not that long ago in real terms – a Christmas stocking was all our grandparents (or older parents) were likely to get. It was a relatively affordable treat that was looked forward to. Most of them contained some imported fruit for a touch of luxury (orange, clementine, banana), a shiny penny or other coin in the toe, and if you were lucky perhaps a small toy or two, often handmade by a parent.

Fast forward a few years, and kids were getting whole pillowcases full of gifts, often much more expensive and not really stocking fillers at all. And now we’re supposed to be throwing in high end fragrances, designer jewellery and the like? To hell with it, back to the cheap and cheerful! For those with small children, there’s also the added advantage of it keeping the kids occupied for an hour or two on Christmas morning, allowing parents just a bit more precious sleep.

Size matters

Let’s start with containment. A big sock or a felt stocking-shaped bag is just the right size. Even if it’s for an adult, put the contents together from a child’s eye point of view. It should be a little mysterious, with lumps and bumps sticking out here and there, and some brightly coloured wrapping paper to crackle and catch the eye. The one exception I do make is that when I include something like a satsuma I don’t bother to wrap those up – they aren’t a luxury fruit any more so it’s less fun to get through the paper and find one. I also don’t put a penny in the toe, more like a small handful of foil-wrapped chocolate coins.

It’s fine to have a few useful gifts in there: a shower sponge, some socks, a bobble hat, and so on. But remember the fun and the silly things too: nibbles, toys, smellies etc.


  • A piece of festive fruit is still a good idea – oranges and clementines smell lovely, and it’s something to snack on before breakfast and balance out the richer stuff.
  • Chocolate – you have to have chocolate. A small, nice bar of something, a mini box of truffles or a few Ferrero Rochers for the grown-ups. For kids of all ages: chocolate oranges, Cadbury shapes, choccy animals, footballs and coins, and so on. Local pound shops are the place to go.
  • Other sweets – candy canes, Haribo, popping candy, sugar mice, marzipan, toffees, fudge etc. Any large newsagent is fine…
  • Drink – fizzy or still, juice or sugary. Small miniature of booze for the adults, or tea or coffee.


  • Pocket money toys (plastic animals, mini kite, magic tricks, building blocks etc) – any local toy shop, or Hawkin’s Bazaar online.
  • Art materials (colouring book, pens, stickers, paints, craft kits) – pound shops and stationers
  • Gadgets (torch, puzzle, phone accessory)
  • Small book, comic etc


  • Silly soap, nicer than average shower gel etc. Try TKMaxx, or Waitrose’s cinnamon buns wash gel (2 for £2).
  • Low priced perfume or aftershave, or body spray. Try Next, Zara or Superdrug.
  • Small makeup set – all high street chemists have these, often as part of 3-for-2 offers.

What’s going in your Christmas stockings this year (apart from your pins, of course)?

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