One of my favourite Christmas traditions is the stocking. It’s the first thing that you open on Christmas morning. Tiny little presents and candy just for you in your own special stocking that you use each year. Nobody ever takes or wants your stocking, like underwear it is all yours. Each time you reach into the festive sock, it’s a surprise. What’s also surpising is how many things can fit into a stocking, especially if it stretches, like mine.
But where did this delightful custom come from? Who decided that socks were good receptacles for presents?
According to the holiday movie Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970) hanging stockings by the fire was an everyday occurrence and when Burgermeister Meisterburger outlawed Kris Kringle and his toys, they served as a covert way of delivering the toys to the children of Sombertown.
Then you have Bluetoes the Christmas Elf (1988) where stockings began because Small One (aka Bluetoes) the elf was too small to help the other elves and Santa. In this version of events, toys grow on trees at the North Pole. Small One picked toys from the trees that were too small and wouldn’t be ready until next year. Having been scolded, he goes and falls asleep in Santa’s sleigh and wakes up as he is making his deliveries. Santa finds he is short on toys and rushes back (warp speed magic) to the North Pole to get more. Small One who is left behind, thinks that Santa has forgotten the children and remembers the tiny toys in his pockets. Taking off his socks and filling them up, he pops in and hangs them by the chimney for the kids. Santa having returned finds the kids having a great time with their tiny gifts and Small One’s toes are now frostbitten and blue. Santa loves Small One’s idea of tiny toys in stockings, he makes him in charge of that department at the workshop and re-names him Bluetoes.
Or you can go with the legend that is commonly circulated around, where there once was a poor widower who couldn’t afford a dowry for his three daughters to be married. At this stage of the game St. Nicholas wandered around from town to town doing good wherever he could. Hearing of the family’s problems and knowing the man would not accept charity, St. Nicholas put a few gold coins in each of the girls stockings one night as they dried by the fire. When they woke up they had a wonderful surprise and could now afford to find husbands!
No one really knows when this custom started, it is at least as old as the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore (aka Twas the Night Before Christmas), published in 1823. “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…”
However and whenever it came about, I’m glad it did. Charming in it’s simplicity, personal and memory filled, the stocking is one of Christmas’s most treasured traditions.
So, be sure to hang your stockings by the chimney with care tonight, and here’s hoping that old St. Nick fills them full of goodies!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!
Links to articles read for this post.