Children and the young at heart have for many generations hung their stockings from the mantelpiece on Christmas Eve hoping that St. Nick would come that night to fill them up with sweets and small precious gifts. Christmas stockings are a personal and wonderful holiday tradition. People nowadays have become more creative designing the stockings using different shapes and sizes, colors and materials. Of course, they are still hung over the mantel by the fireplace or simply somewhere else adequate in the house.
The stocking has become very important to young children since this is the one spot that Santa sends his message as to whether a child has been good or naughty. The child with good behavior gets rewarded with gifts in his stockings while the naughtily behaved child receives a lump of coal instead.
The tradition of Christmas stockings is believed to have started in Germany. Children simply used to hang their everyday socks on the mantle to dry. Over time, someone liked the idea and decided to make very creative stockings for the only purpose of Christmas delight. Of course, these days you can basically buy or make stockings that are different colors, sizes or shapes and can be personalized with names of each member of the family. This helps Santa to distribute the gifts to the right person without too much confusion.
With almost all Christmas traditions follows a legend explaining how, where, what and who started the tradition. In this case, the legend of the Christmas stockings started with a nobleman who was very rich and powerful but yet kind and gentle towards his fellow men. After the passing of his wife of a long and dreadful sickness, he was left with three daughters to raise on his own. They all felt grief and misery for quite some time after the passing of his wife and mother.
Some years later, this nobleman lost all his fortune and was forced to move his family out of their noble place to a peasant’s cottage where the three daughters had to learn to do their own cooking, sewing and cleaning. They lived a life of poverty. When his daughters were of age to marry, his heart was heavy with sorrow and he was extremely depressed knowing that they could never marry someone without some kind of substantial property to give to the new husband’s family. One night, the three daughters had washed their clothes and hung their stockings over the fireplace to dry.
Nicholas heard the troubles the nobleman faced and decided one night during the Christmas season to pay him a visit. Looking through the window, he noticed that everyone has gone to bed and three stockings were hung over the fireplace. Nicholas all the sudden had a wonderful idea. He took three small bags of gold and threw them down the chimney one by one and they landed in each of the daughters’ stockings.
The next morning the three daughters discovered the pouches of gold and were able to use them to get married. The nobleman was full of joy to see all three daughters marry and he lived a long and very happy life. Maybe this is just a legend, but either way, this is believed to be the origin of hanging stockings over the mantel on Christmas Eve.
Children from all over the globe continue the tradition of hanging their Christmas stockings over the mantel or somewhere in the house where Santa can see them. In some countries, children place shoes by the fireplace instead of stockings; some shine their shoes before putting them next to a window sill. Others use small boxes filled with flowers and place them under their beds for the camel of the three kings.
For most children in the States, stockings simply mean more gifts to come but in smaller packages. Christmas stocking traditions are very unique to each family but certainly carry a higher meaning when people have some kind of knowledge why they follow this tradition or what it represents to them.