As a young child I was enchanted when I discovered that children in Holland didn’t hang stockings on the mantle but placed their wooden shoes beside the fireplace. Through the eyes of a child, wooden shoes from Holland were a thing of wonder, hinting of exotic peoples and far-away lands.
One year, I was looking for a unique and inexpensive alternative to Christmas stockings for my young granddaughters. The girls were going to spend several days at Grandma’s house celebrating all the Christmas traditions: the tree, the lights, the movies, the music, the feast, the stories and poems, the hot cocoa, the baking and decorating of cookies and candies, and the opening of presents. Stockings were somewhat problematic since the little one was still young enough to believe in Santa. How to play “Santa filling the stockings” while avoiding complicated explanations about why Santa was visiting on Dec 12th instead of Christmas Eve or why Santa would visit the girls at Grandma’s house and at home on Christmas Eve?
After a lot of thought I dug out the pair of large wooden shoes that I had bought on impulse in a thrift store several years before. They were packed away accumulating dust while I tried to figure out what to actually do with them. Sturdy, and clearly never worn, they had been inexpensive, costing just a few dollars.
I sanded the shoes lightly, inside and out; making sure the color of the wood was uniform and removing any marks, smudges, or light soiling.
I painted a matching Christmas design on each shoe with acrylic paints, using a stencil for the hearts, and an embossing plate (as a stencil) for the holly and berries. I finished with a light protective spray coat of polyurethane.
That was twelve years ago and every Christmas the shoes are placed under the Christmas tree, overflowing with candy and small gifts.
Surprisingly, the shoes hold a rather large amount of small items. Not so surprising, is how durable and sturdy they are. When empty of toys they can be lined with paper or parchment and used to display Christmas cookies, candies, or other baked goods. They can also be filled with silk holly leaves and bright red berries.
For just a few dollars and several hours of labor I was able to create a unique Christmas memory for my granddaughters while solving the “Santa’s visit on Christmas Eve” problem. The shoes also honor my never-forgotten childhood enchantment with wooden shoes and just in case you’re wondering, my ancestry is Portuguese and Welsh (go figure). It doesn’t matter; you don’t have to be Dutch to appreciate wooden shoes.