Traditions of Christmas: The Christmas Stocking

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There are many legends and miracles attributed to Saint Nicholas but the ones that give him his gift-giving role involves his love of children. He was very shy, and

The Christmas stocking originated with hanging socks
The Christmas stocking originated with hanging socks

wanted to give money to poor people without them knowing about it.

It is said that one day, he climbed the roof of a house and dropped a purse of money down the chimney. It landed in the stocking which a girl had put to dry by the fire! From this was born the legend of Santa coming down the chimney and placing gifts in children’s stockings.

Children all over the world continue the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings.

In some countries children have variations of this custom.

For instance, in France the children place their shoes by the fireplace, a tradition dating back to when children wore wooden peasant shoes.

In Holland the children fill their shoes with hay and a carrot for the horse of Sintirklass

In Hungary children shine their shoes before putting them near the door or a window.

Italian children leave their shoes out the night before Epiphany, January 5, for La Befana.

And in Puerto Rico children put greens and flowers in small boxes and place them under their beds for the camels of the Three Kings.

Christmas stockings are hung by the fireplace
Christmas stockings are hung by the fireplace

The following legend is related in The World Encyclopedia of Christmas: Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death. Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls. St. Nicholas wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn’t accept charity. He decided to help in secret. After dark he threw three bags of gold through an open window, one landed in a stocking. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning they found the bags of gold and were, of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after. Other versions of the story say that Saint Nicholas threw the three bags of gold directly into the stockings which were hung by the fireplace to dry.

In 2011, Pubblica Assistenza Carrara e Sezioni in Carrara, Tuscany, Italy held a fund raising event for charity. A stocking was made measuring 168ft 5.65 inches and was awarded the largest Christmas stocking. Fulfilling the guideline that the stocking had to be filled with presents, the volunteers filled the stocking with balloons containing sweets inside.

Christmas show staples such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town provides other legend and stories of the origins of the Christmas stocking.

 

 

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