Families have been practicing the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings above the fireplace for years. But where did the idea for Christmas stockings come from, and which culture can be credited with the creation of this important holiday tradition?
Several stories point to ancient town of Myra, located in what is now modern Turkey and the tale of a poor nobleman and St. Nicholas as the most accepted legend of the origin of the Christmas stocking.
According to the legend, a nobleman grew despondent over the death of his wife and foolishly squandered his fortune. So pathetic was his condition, that he and his three daughters had to move to a peasant s cottage and lived a life of misery. The three young sisters would not be able to be married without dowries, money and property given to the new husband’s family.
The generous St. Nicholas, hearing of the sisters plight, set forth to help. Wishing to remain anonymous, he threw three small pouches of gold coins down the chimney where they landed in the stockings the young women had hung by the fireplace to dry. The next morning, the three sisters found the gold coins inside their stockings which allowed them to get married and they lived happily ever after.
The Dutch are likely the best known for starting the ritual of hanging Christmas stockings which began when children left their wooden shoes by the fireplace filled with straw for Santa’s reindeer along with a treat for Santa.. The next morning, the children would find treats for them in place of the reindeer food.
Folklore says that an orange in the stocking represents the gold left by St. Nicholas. Finding an apple indicates that the stocking owner has been good during the year while someone who has been naughty will find a piece of coal in their stocking.
In the early 1800’s, the first mention Christmas stockings being hung near a chimney occurred in the popular poem ” Visit from St. Nick” which contains the famous line… “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there”.
Unless you’re one of those naughty children who only gets a lump of coal, the exact origin of the Christmas stocking is not as important as the tradition of finding those special treats inside on Christmas morning.
Merry Christmas…we hope your stockings are filled with love and happiness!