The stockings were hung.
The story goes that a poor widower had three daughters. He fretted that his girls would not be able to get married because he did not have money for a proper dowry. One night, after the family went to bed, St. Nicholas came down the chimney, found the girls' stockings hanging by the fire to dry, filled the hosiery with gold and disappeared.
The family awoke the next morning overjoyed at the prospect of a brighter future.
The origin of this story is undetermined, but the tradition continues. Whether it's an actual wool sock from your dresser drawer or a Pinterest-inspired number made from bits of flannel and burlap with your name emblazoned across the top and fuzzy pom-poms adorning the cuff, the stocking is both December décor and the ultimate Christmas gift bag.
Since filling stockings with gold is impractical and expensive, try these festive but wallet-friendly ways to bring joy on Christmas morning:
Keep it simple with edible sweets and treats. Head to Honest Weight Co-op in Albany and pick up Tierra Farms maple-ginger roasted cashews. Sold in bulk, you can decide how much or how little you want to spend. Pair the nuts with a chocolate snowman from Krause's Candy and a clementine orange.
Be ironic, and put -- well, socks -- in their socks. Pick up a cozy, fuzzy pair of slipper socks at a big-box store for less than $10 or for the outdoor enthusiast, stop in to Eastern Mountain Sports in Schenectady, Albany or Saratoga Springs and grab a pair, often for less than $20.
Game time: Long before Minecraft there was the Rubik's Cube. Challenge the puzzle-loving child in your house with a 2-inch by 2-inch or 3-inch by 3-inch version of the game. G. Willikers in Saratoga Springs has them both, each less than $13.
Pretty and practical: The joy of the season often comes with a side of chapped lips and hands. Be a Christmas angel and stuff their stockings with lip balm and lotion. These soothers can be found at bargain prices at any drugstore.
Game on: Winter won't last forever and when spring arrives, it's golf season. Get 'em ready for a day on the links with a sleeve of brand new golf balls.
Always be prepared: A multi-tool is a handy device and the flat, credit card-shaped tool from Wild and Wolf is no exception. This do-it-all device has 10 tools built into 2.4-by-3.5-inches, including a can opener, knife blade, screwdriver, bottle opener and more, all packaged up in a trendy tin. Get one at Open Door Bookstore & Gift Gallery for $17.
Don't forget Fido: Show some love to your furriest family member with a bag of homemade dog treats from Rocket's Canine Cookies. For around $10, Lassie can snack on 30 biscuits available in three different flavors. Pick up these treats at the Schenectady Indoor Market or online at rocketscaninecookies.com.
Whether you stuff stockings with candy, gadgets or trinkets, it's important to keep an eye on spending. Nothing ruins December's Christmas magic like January's credit hangover. With Americans poised to spend an average of $935.50 this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, we sought some advice for spending smart. Guilderland-based Thrivent Financial Wealth Advisor Greg Mengel offered a few tips on making holiday memories that won't cost you later.
1. Spend within your means. The little things can add up quickly so keep track of your spending. "The last thing you want to deal with in the new year are tons of credit card bills," said Mengel.
2. Have a budget, but more importantly, stick to it. It is better to give than to receive. "If you stick to a budget you can peel off and designate money specifically for gifts under the tree and money for stocking stuffers. In our family, we spend around 5 percent of our budget on stocking stuffers."
3. Set aside funds throughout the year. Many banks and credit unions offer a "Christmas Account." The idea is that you can decide how much money you want to set aside each month for holiday gifts. Then, when Black Friday rolls around, you have cash in hand. In order to reach this year's average spending of around $935, you would need to save about $78 a month or $35.96 per paycheck if you are paid every other week.
Hanging stockings in anticipation of a gift from St. Nick is a treasured tradition. You probably won't find a magic dowry in your hosiery this year, but by balancing the thrill of gift-giving with a thoughtful budget, you may find yourself overjoyed in January when the bills don't come.
The stockings were hung.