Hanging up a red and white stocking on the mantelpiece on Christmas Eve has now become an almost inseparable tradition for all small children and even adults. The precise origin of the Christmas stocking tradition is not actually known, although there are several different theories.
Common legends associated with the origin of the Christmas stocking:
• Dutch Theory – An early tradition for hanging a stocking is said to date back to 16th century Holland. Children where encouraged to leave their straw-filled clogs next to the chimney for the reindeer s (or donkeys) of the Saint.
A treat for “Sinterklaas” was also left in the house by the fireplace. In reply, Santa would leave gifts for the children of the household. Later generations changed the Dutch clogs to stockings, and the Saint came to be known as “Santa Claus”.
• Saint Nicholas Theory – In this account, the Christmas stocking tradition dates back to the 3rd and 4th century when the historical Saint Nicholas left a charitable gift to a poor widower.
The story goes that a once kind nobleman, whose wife dies, is soon left in despair with three daughters after losing his money on some poor investments, meaning that when it came time for his daughters to marry, the money wasn’t available to pay the dowries.
Later with the family living in a peasant’s cottage, and with freshly washed stockings hanging on the chimney to dry, Saint Nicholas, who was fully aware of the fathers despair, entered the house after the family had turned in for the night, and left gold coins in the girls’ stockings.
Saint Nicholas is believed to of made numerous anonymous gifts throughout his career working as a bishop.
See also: Christmas Tree Origins
• United States Theory – the tradition of hanging a Christmas stocking in the U.S. dates back to the 19th century, where some believe the origins of the Christmas stocking was started by an illustrator named Thomas Nast, through a portrait and by a writer named George Webster, in a tale talking about a visit from Father Christmas.
Irrespective of the true origins of this Christmas tradition, the time-honored holiday tradition has established itself as an integral part at Christmas enjoyed by all across the world. Today, it can be very common for people to sew or hand-knit their own stockings for the children in the family.
Although, for those unable to embark on hand-made Christmas stockings, it is possible to shop for a wide-ranging choice of personalized Christmas Stockings, with fun designs, colors, shapes or embroidered with names.