Hanging Christmas stockings is a tradition in many homes.

Sometimes the children hang them, and sometimes Santa Claus or St. Nicholas brings them on Christmas Eve.  In some countries, children leave out a boot or a wooden shoe instead of stockings.

The origin of Christmas stockings has several variations.  Most involve St. Nicholas, a poor man, and his three daughters.

Nederlands: Sinterklaas tijdens het Het Feest ...

Do you know the Legend of Christmas Stockings?

According to tradition, long ago a penniless nobleman was concerned about his three beautiful daughters.  His wife had died.  After her death he became despondent, losing his inheritance to bad investments.  And he worried that his daughters could not be married.

You see, in his village it was traditional for the father of the bride to provide a dowry.  The bride would give the money or property to her husband when they were married.

Unfortunately, this man had no money or property.  Apparently he worried quite a bit about his daughters who took good care of him and never complained.

One day, St. Nicholas passed through the village.  He heard about this man and his daughters, and wanted to help.  Because he knew the nobleman would refuse charity, he decided to help him secretly.  So, he waited until dark.  During the night, St. Nicholas tossed three pouches of gold coins down the man’s chimney.

The pouches fell into the girls’ stockings that they had washed and hung by the fireplace to dry.  The girls showed their father the coins the next day.  He used the money to marry off each girl.  Everyone lived happily ever after — as they usually do in these legends.

Children throughout the village starting putting out their Christmas stockings hoping St. Nicholas would stop by and fill them.  Since then, the tradition has spread.  Children all over the world hang Christmas stockings year after year also hoping St. Nicholas will leave them gifts.

It’s a cute story.

Is it true?  Well, it is a legend. 😉

How do Christmas stockings vary?

A Christmas stocking could be as simple as a child’s regular stocking hung up Christmas Eve.  Or more often it could be a special stocking or sock that’s hung with the Christmas decorations.

  • Are your Christmas stockings throw-aways? Used only once or twice, and then discarded?
  • Or are they treasured heirlooms, meant to be lovingly passed down from one generation to the next?
  • Maybe they’re in-between the two.  Sturdy enough to last several Christmases, but not likely to survive from generation to generation.

Sometimes it makes a difference in whether your Christmas stockings are store bought or handmade.  And sometimes it doesn’t —

Who made your Christmas stockings?

  • A relative or friend, probably a crafter.  Ah these stockings may be destined to be treasured!  Carefully wrapped and stored each year, and brought out with the other Christmas decorations.  There may even be a story like how Great Aunt Martha made them for all the children.
  • Special ordered and personalized, either by hand or machine.  These may have motifs and colors to suit the recipient.  While it may take less time on the part of the giver, just as much care may go into choosing the right one.
  • Mass produced Christmas stockings can be nice, too.  And no, that’s not just an afterthought!  If you’re a crafter, you can personalize them with a child’s name.  Sometimes it’s enough to know  you picked out this stocking for a special child.

So, who brings your Christmas stockings?

  • Santa Claus or St. Nicholas is traditional in many places.  The children often hang the stockings and Santa Claus or St. Nicholas fills them.
  • Sinterklauss brings Dutch children gifts in their wooden shoes.
  • The Three Kings fill some children’s shoes with presents in France, Spain, and Mexico.
  • La Befana visits Italian children on Epiphany, January 6.
  • And there are more stories designed to teach children about the Christmas story.  How Jesus is The Gift to the world, and how He received gifts at His Birth.

Candy Cane Christmas Stocking

Candy Cane Christmas Stocking

Christmas stockings are a neat way to create memories and to remember past Christmases.  And you don’t have to have a lot of expensive presents to do so.

Keep knitting to your heart’s delight — or someone else’s,

Ina

The Knitting Yarn

Update 12/11/2011: Get my Christmas stocking patterns to knit by clicking here right now.

Bibliography for Christmas Stocking Legend: Christmas socks, accessed 11-12-10.

Bibliography for information on who brings Christmas stockings and gifts: Legend of Christmas Stockings, accessed 11-12-10.

 

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