If your family is like mine, the presents get the attention first and once they have opened everything else they move on to see just what is in their respective stockings....more treats to be had nestled inside the stockings hung on the mantle. The hanging of Christmas stockings is a familiar tradition with an extensive history. Several legends attribute the hanging of stockings to different people or events. Here is a look at some of the stories that have made stockings so popular.
St Nicholas Day ~ Rather than hanging stockings on Christmas, many countries celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on December 6, and this is when stockings are proudly left out for treats. The small, inexpensive trinkets are later unwrapped and enjoyed on Christmas Day.
Dutch Heritage ~ One Tradition says that, in 16th century Holland, children kept their clogs filled with straw in front of the hearth for Santa's reindeer to find. They also left treats for Santa Claus. In return, Santa would leave gifts in the clogs. Over time, stockings were swapped out for clogs.
Merchant's Family Story ~ A popular tale tells the story of a merchant, his wife and three daughters. After the wife falls ill and dies, the man becomes devastated and squanders all of his wealth on frivolous things to mask his sadness. When it comes time for his daughters to marry, the man does not have money for a dowry. St Nicholas hears the plight and knows the man would be too proud to accept charity. Therefore, St Nicholas anonymously tosses 3 bags of gold coins down the chimney. The man's daughters had done the laundry prior and left their stockings by the fireplace to dry. The gold landed in the stockings, thus starting the Christmas stocking tradition.
Italian Good Witch ~ One stocking story does not attribute the tradition to Santa, but to a kind-hearted Italian witch named La Befana. La Befana arrives on a broomstick the night of January 5 and fills the stockings of good children with sweet treats and toys. Bad children are awarded lumps of coal. LaBefana is also credited with being the old woman who the wise men ask for directions to Christ's manger in the Christ Child's story. After turning down an offer to accompany them, La Befana later carried gifts in search of Christ.
As you see, there several different stories as to how they became part of Holiday traditions for most of us. You may have a different story, you have heard. But there can be no denying, this beloved tradition has its own unique history and is part of the Holiday celebrations.