It's a family tradition, started long ago by my grandmother. More of a defense mechanism back then, given that she had seven kids in the span of ten years. It was a tradition of stockings.
Stockings, we of course know, are “hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas would soon be there.*” But in my grandmother’s house, when her children were young, they came down from that mantle and were placed at the end of the bed. There was always an orange, some chocolates and other little items that might be useful or amusing.
It really didn’t matter what was in them because they were there; sitting at the end of the bed, begging to be opened. To the children they said:
‘Stay in your room.’
‘Explore what’s inside.’
‘Play with us.’
But to the adult that had lovingly filled it and placed it with care; it spoke of sleeping in. Of course sleeping in doesn’t mean till noon. No it means eight o’clock at the latest. But when the kids are bound to be running down the stairs at five o’clock in the morning, eight o’clock feels like bliss.
I imagine it also gave my grandparents needed alone time as they worked opposing shifts to support all those kids. Needless to say my mother continued the tradition with me. Once my kids get a little older I’m going to start doing the same thing. Even if the tradition gets a little side tracked and we all gather on one bed to open them as a family.
* quote from T’was the Night before Christmas – by Clement Clarke Moore