Christmas Stockings - How They Began

Children all around the world hang their Christmas stockings above the fireplace

There was once a kind nobleman who had a wife that passed away from an ailment leaving the man and three daughters in desolation. After wasting all his money on bad and worthless inventions they had to relocate into the cottage of a peasant, where the daughters had to do their own cleaning, cooking and sewing. When the time arrived for his daughters to be married, the father became ever more disheartened as his daughters would not be able to marry without having a dowry (property and money given to a new husband's family).

On one particular night the daughters washed their clothing and hung their stockings above the fireplace for them to dry. On that particular night, knowing of the father's despair, Saint Nicholas stopped by the cottage of the nobleman. Peering into a window Saint Nicholas realized the family had already gone off to bed. He also observed the daughters stockings and an Saint Nicholas was struck by an inspiration and he removed three small bags filled with gold from a pouch. One by one dropped them down the chimney where they settled in the stockings.

The following morning as the daughters awakened they discovered their stockings were filled with enough gold to allow them to be married. The nobleman lived to to see all three of his daughters be married and he lived to have a long, happy life.

Children from all around the world have continued this custom of hanging their Christmas stockings above the fireplace. Children have analogous customs around the world, in France, children arrange their shoes beside the fireplace, a custom going back to a time when children wore peasant shoes made of wood. In Holland, children stuff their shoes with carrots and hay for the Sintirklass horse. In Hungary the children go about shining their shoes prior to placing them near a window sill or door.

Italian children leave out their shoes on the eve of Epiphany which is January 5, for the good witch La Befana. While Puerto Rico children place flowers and greens into small boxes and put them underneath their beds to feed the camels belonging to the Three Kings. The very first reference to Christmas stockings hanging near or from a chimney were not made until earlier in this century by illustrator, Thomas Nast, shown through his illustrations and also by Clement Moore, in an article talking about a 'visit by old St.Nick'. This fable quickly spread.

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there"

Until recent times, it was the custom to receive trivial items such as fruit, candy and nuts in your stocking, however these have been exchanged in many homes over the last half of the century with more expensive gifts.

New Article Dec 8, 2011