The legend of Christmas stockings

Posted by SOCKSHOP

Stockings are as much part of Christmas as mulled wine, mince pies and wondering whether it’ll snow.
Christmas Stockings

But what’s the story behind the odd ritual?

Origin stories

Like many traditions, the origin is a little hazy with various versions and a lot of ‘he said, she said’. The most popular story centres on good old St Nick.

If you’re all sitting comfortably, we'll begin…

Once upon time in a town called Myra, there was a noble yet poor man. While his wife had passed, he still had his three daughters who he loved very much. But he was poor and struggling to make ends meet.

Despite his daughters’ renowned beauty, he knew they would never marry as he couldn’t afford to pay a dowry.

One day, in the middle of December, he was telling friends about his awful plight when the kindly St Nicholas happened by and overheard his tale of woe. As a good man he wanted to help, but also could tell that the widower was a proud man who would never accept charity.

So that night, old St Nick took matter into his own hands. Although he was a big man, he was nimble and lithe, and managed to climb onto the man’s roof and down his chimney. Here he found the daughter’s stockings drying on the fireside. Perfect, he thought.

Christmas Stockings
Reaching into his deep pockets, he pulled out a handful of gold coins and placed them inside each of the stockings. And then he was gone.

In the morning, the father discovered this bounty and knew it was a sign that his daughters were ready to marry. And they all lived happily ever after.

Alternative versions

But that’s not the only story. There’s another version of the same story that not only explains the stockings (and Santa’s fondness for chimneys) but also why we put oranges into stockings.

In this version, the gold coins are replaced with gold balls. These gold balls are also a possible inspiration for our Christmas tree baubles.

Finally, a completely different story exists. This one revolves around the Dutch figures of Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete - the assistant to Santa Claus (Sinterklass in Dutch).

While Santa rides a big white horse, Pete has to settle for a mule. To help them on their way, Dutch children would leave hay and carrots for the horse and mule in their clogs, which would be replaced by Pete and Santa with small gifts.

As the Dutch moved to America, they took this tradition with them. Traditional Dutch clogs were replaced by the more readily available stockings. But the gift giving (and the tradition of leaving out food for Santa and his horse/mule/reindeer) persists.


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