The History of the Christmas stocking

Posted On December 15, 2006

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Many theories to origin of holiday tradition > Nothing signifies Christmas like hanging a fluffy red stocking with white trim above the fireplace.

In the United States, families have been practicing this tradition for years in preparation for that special day of spiritual celebration and giving. Though in modern times the Christmas stocking is often used as a holder of small gifts for children and loved ones, there are many myths and tales explaining the origins of Christmas Stockings.

Christmascarnival.com and several other holiday specific web sites point to the tale of the poor nobleman and St. Nicholas as the most accepted legend of the origin of the Christmas stocking. According to Christmascarnival.com, “A kind nobleman squandered all his wealth and property when his wife died due to an illness and left him three daughters.

So pathetic was his condition, that he had to move to a peasant’s cottage and lived a life of misery. He did not even have enough booty to get his daughters married. Generous as he was, St Nicholas of Myra decided to help them out but anonymously. One night he rode up to their house and, having discovered that all had fallen asleep, he quietly dropped three pouches of gold coins down the chimney and they landed on the stockings that the girls had hung up by the hearth.

The next morning, the daughters were overjoyed with the gold coins they found inside their stockings as it was sufficient enough for them to get married and they lived happily ever after.”

Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, offers two additional theories as to the origin of the stocking. This legend is traced to Holland and the famous wooden clogs. According to the Web site, it is told that during the 16th century, children in Holland would leave their clogs by the hearth filled with straw for the reindeer.

A treat for Santa was left in the house near the fire. In return “Sinterclass” would leave the children treats. Later the clogs would become stockings, and the Saint known to all would become “Santa Claus.”

Another possible origin can be traced to Germany, where children would hang their socks by the fireplace in the 16th century to dry overnight after washing them. On Christmas Eve St. Nicholas would fill the stocking with five gifts designed to stimulate each of the five senses.

Wikipedia states, a typical stocking would be filled with something to eat, like fruit or candy; a toy or other item that makes noise; an item that is visually pleasing, like jewelry, cuff-links or a coloring book; something that has tactile appeal such as modeling clay or a soft toy; and an item with a distinctive scent such as cologne or perfume.

Like all good legends, the story of the Christmas stocking has many versions. The original story has evolved to allow for differences in culture and good old fashioned story telling.

But, unless you’re one of those naughty children who only gets a lump of coal, the exact origin of the stocking is not as important as the tradition of finding that overstuffed boot-shaped sock on Christmas morning.

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One Response to “The History of the Christmas stocking”

  1. Gemma

    I always love learning about traditions that we use every year. It’s strange that everyone knows to hang a stocking, but hadly anyone knows why we do.
    Thanks for the information.
    I found it really interesting.