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Christmas Stocking History
The story of the first Christmas Stocking and why we celebrate the tradition of hanging Christmas Stockings by the fireplace. Includes the many traditions and customs of Christmas stockings:
A widowed nobleman in Myra was left to bring up three daughters without their mother. He became poor and worried that he could not afford to have them married. In those days the custom was that a father was expected to provide money for his daughter and husband. No husbands would want to marry his daughters without this gift of money which was known as a dowry.
There lived a man in this Christian area called Nicholas. He was a rich and generous man who often performed acts of charity and kindness. He learnt about the problem of the nobleman and wanted to help his three daughters lead a happy life. So over a few nights he went quietly to their home and seeing an open window on each night he threw money into their house. He knew the father was too proud to accept the money for the dowries so had to give him the money in this secret way. The gold coins landed by the fireplace hearth. The family had left clothes to dry overnight by the fire and in the mornings each daughter found a golden coin in a shoe or stocking. This gift enabled each daughter to bring some money to a new family and they were all happily married.
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There are variations of this Christmas stocking origin and history such as Nicholas throwing a bag of coins down the chimney. These bags of coins landed into each daughters stocking hanging to dry in the fireplace. When news of this good fortune was heard around the village many people hung their stockings over the fireplace in the hope of the same good luck and fortune gift! This is why there is the story of Father Christmas going down the chimney and why people like to receive a bag of silver or gold Christmas chocolate coins in their Christmas stocking.
Christmas Stocking Traditions
This lead to the tradition of hanging a stocking up at Christmas to be filled with coins, fruit, nuts, presents, chocolate and sweets to the delight of many a child. Small toys are often added and these are called stocking fillers in most countries like the UK though in America they are called stocking stuffers.
The Christmas stocking would be filled in secret by a secret gift giver. Children would use the biggest sock or stocking they could find - dad's long socks are best! Though in modern times specially made Christmas stockings are often used which are decorated with motifs like snowmen, Santa, holly, golden shapes and knitted with bright colours like red, green and white. Some parents embroider the name of each child, though some can be purchased with a child's name written along the length of the stocking. This saves a lot of fighting and arguing amongst children on Christmas morning!
A Christmas sack can be commercially bought by mums and dads who want to give their children larger stocking gifts and presents. Though most homes don't have open fireplaces modern parents leave the stockings or sacks by the bed of their children so that they see them when they wake up.
Christmas Stocking Customs
Even if a child had been naughty all year he or she would know to be on his or her best behaviour on Christmas Eve because if he or she were naughty they would be given a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking and nothing else.
It was the custom to give a child five presents that would stimulate each of the five senses. So as an example they may receive the following gifts in their Christmas stocking:
Something to eat like fruit or candy to stimulate their taste
A noisy toy or a nut to crack open to stimulate their hearing
Something to touch like a soft pair of socks
Something shiny and nice to look at to stimulate their vision
Something to smell like nice soap
Nicholas did many more good deeds, so much so that he is thought to be the original Father Christmas and he became a Saint. You can read more about St Nicholas on the Santa Claus page.
More Xmas trivia questions.
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