Most everyone in today's "grandparents' era" remembers what Christmas stockings held when we were little children. We remember what they looked like, what they held and how excited we were to dump the contents on Christmas morning.
Our stockings (old farm family) were our own actual stockings. They weren't made for Christmas, they were made for feet! A wise child selected his or her largest sock in hopes of it being filled. One year I thought I'd get more stuff if I hung my red cotton tights. I found, to my chagrin, Santa had replaced them with my simple anklet.
For those that had fireplaces, it was dutifully hung off the mantel. For those of us with oil stoves or coal furnaces, it was usually on the back of a chair near the tree.
I don't recall ever having toys in my sock and never had the expectation of them. It was filled with the biggest and most fresh fruit: always an orange, a tangerine, a big shiny apple, and various nuts in the shell. The highlight was one of those little cardboard book boxes filled with several kinds of Lifesavers rolls.
It was a delicacy to have fresh fruit in the northern winters and we just "knew" it was a very expensive gift - not to be wasted or taken for granted. I still think Christmas whenever I peel a Clementine tangerine.
Every home had a full set of nut cracking devices. They came with the hand clamp/cracker and a set of nut picks. Today, most antique shops have those simple sets quite cheap. The reason it's in an antique shop is nuts in the shell are seldom used. Shelled nuts in bags are common in our grocery stores and there is no need to sit around making the effort and mess.
Side note: a nutcracker is not the little soldier looking Christmas ornament, it's as in this picture of my own 50 year old, inexpensive, and common set above. These usually came boxed and were often kept laying on a side table in the living room beside a bowl of nuts.
As my children came along, their stockings were beautifully knit by a family friend. Those stockings have long gone to their own homes. I still have the two above, made by my friend, Gert, an example of the personality of stockings lovingly homemade.
Stockings today are often "themed" with the current cartoon, hobby, or lavish design. They are often filled with presents - small in size and some expensive. With fruit and nuts available year round at the corner grocery, they are no longer a special treat. It's simply another generation adapting to their own times. And, each new generation making their own Christmas memories.
Now, for me, off to peel a tangerine and relish the smell and taste of Christmas past.