Read Christmas stocking traditions, Christmas customs about Christmas stockings and Christmas stocking legends here.
The prevalent custom of washing red stockings with white trim and hang them near the fireplace in anticipation that Santa will fill them with gifts is quite ancient and has been followed in many countries. Christmas stockings have now become inseparable from Christmas symbols and children love to find small gifts or knicks-knacks in these stockings in the morning. Here are some legends and theories on how Christmas stockings became so popular and a part of Christmas traditions:
- The tradition of hanging stockings is said to have its roots in the 16th century Dutch tradition, where children in Holland used to leave their clogs by the fireplace filled with straw for the reindeers or donkeys of the Saint and a treat for Santa himself in the house. In return, the Santa Claus used to leave treats for children.
- There is a legend about kind Saint Nicholas related to the
tradition of Christmas stockings. Once a kind nobleman had a turn of
fate. He lost his money and his wife and was left alone to fend off
his old days with three daughters of marriage-able age. Once, when
St. Nicholas was going on rounds, he heard all four of them crying
together for they had little to eat and make merry. Their biggest
problem was how to arrange dowries for the daughters so that they
can get married.
The saint knew that these people were too respectable to be offered any charity and so he thought of another way to help them out. He saw that the three daughters had washed their stockings and hung them over their fireplace to dry. So, in the night, he quietly climbed down the chimney and placed three purses of gold in each of the girl's stockings that was enough to marry them off. In the morning, when the family found the money, they were very thankful to God and the kind nobleman who did so much for them.
- According to yet another theory, at about the end of the nineteenth century, Thomas Nast and George Webster cooked up a story about a visit from Santa Claus as an illustrator and writer respectively, which became very popular. It was in this story that Christmas stockings were first mentioned as being hung from a chimney, thus, giving birth to the tradition.
Whatever be the reason, one could not help but smile when young innocent faces break into grins and smiles when they find small gifts and toys in their stockings, supposedly from Santa. Other similar traditions that are found around the world around Christmas include putting flowers and greens in small boxes and putting them under their bed by Puerto Rican children for the camels of the Three Kings; French children keeping their shoes, preferably wooden peasant shoes, by the fireplace; and Italian children leaving their shoes out the night before Epiphany, January 5, for La Befana the good witch.