In yet another version of the story of Saint Nicholas lies the origin of the tradition of washing the stockings on the night before Christmas and hanging them up on the window sill or near the hearth, in readiness to receive gifts from Santa. It is said to happen 17 centuries ago in Turkey. Here the Bishop of Myra, Nicholas was known all over for his benevolence and love for children. He used to distribute gifts secretly to children on Christmas Eve as a surprise for them. While he was passing a house he heard a father and his daughters lamenting their poverty and how they were unable to be married because they could not provide dowry that was prevalent in those days.
Overcome with pity and sympathy, Nicholas observed the woolen stockings
of the girls that they had put on the windowsill to dry and secretly
placed enough gold pieces in each to provide dowry for the girls.
Another variations of the custom of hanging out stockings for Santa
Claus (popular name for Saint Nicholas) are putting hay and carrots in
their shoes by Dutch children for the horse of their dear Sinterklass
who is their patron saint and brings them presents. Swedish children
wait for a kindly gnome called the Tomte instead of Santa on Christmas.
This gnome is believed to live under the floorboards. In some parts of
France, Mexico and Spain, children wait for the Three Kings to fill
their shoes with presents.
However, children of north French pray that Pere Fouettard or Father
Spanker would not visit them as he is reputed to punish and spank
children, if they are naughty and bad. La Befana is another version of
Santa that visits the Italian children and gives them gifts albeit on
Epiphany or 6th of January. Agios Vasilis, the Saint of Letters visit
the Greek children living in plains but those living in the mountains
are taken care of by the tiny elves who bring the desired gifts to the
good little children. The tradition of giving gifts reminds us that
Jesus himself was a gift to the world and the gifts that he received
when he was born.
Legend of Christmas Stockings