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A quick history of Christmas stockings and why we use them during Christmas time.
Growing up, stockings were my favorite Christmas decoration. I loved tracing the felt designs with my fingers, loved hanging them on the gold hooks above our fireplace, and loved pulling small goodies out of them on Christmas morning.
So, like we always do, prepare yourself for a deep history into something you never really thought and/or cared about. I’m in the same boat, trust me.
What is a Stocking?
A stocking is actually quite simple, it’s just a large sock or a sock-shaped bag that is hung on a mantel. It’s typically filled with small toys or candies for kids on Christmas.
The Christmas stocking tradition began in the early 19th century in Europe. Apparently, the Christmas stocking custom is based on events that happened during St. Nicholas’ life.
One Christmas stocking legend that’s floated around is that St. Nick pulled a Mr. Darcy and paid for the weddings of three daughters. Their father was unable to pay the dowry, and was literally contemplating sending his daughters into either prostitution or to a nunnery, because life sucked for women, bros.
So, during the night, St. Nick snuck onto the family’s property and threw three bags of gold to pay for the daughter’s weddings. One of the bags of gold landed in a stocking on the mantel.
Or there is always the fun story of how Christmas stockings came to be from one of our favorite old movies, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. If you haven’t watched it, it’s a must! We used to watch this every Christmas Eve as part of our family tradition.
A short recap if you haven’t seen it (but you really must watch it at least once!)… The mean Burgermeister Meisterburger has declared having toys as illegal. So Kris Kringle has Jessica tell the children of the town to hang the stockings they have to wash daily over the fireplace and hide the toys in there. So when the Burgermeister Meisterburger comes through the town, no toys are to be found!
What are Christmas Stockings Used For?
Every year, families all over the world celebrate Christmas by hanging stockings on their mantels. Then, on Christmas Eve, Santa comes to put small gifts in them. Some gifts include candy, balls, and Rubix cubes.
If you’re older like me, you might get stuff like socks and underwear… ugh. (The editor appreciated the attempt at a joke, my guy. Better this than another decking the halls pun.) But, if you misbehave, your stocking will be filled with coal and you won’t receive any presents.
My cousin once convinced me I was getting coal on Christmas because I had peeked into one of my gifts. As a seven-or-so year-old, this was the worst possible thing that could ever happen to me. My life flashed before my eyes; I saw the light. I was so distressed I cried for the majority of the next two days.
Spoiler alert: there was no coal. I was a fool.
Christmas Stocking Decor
Also, stockings can be used as a pretty decoration to brighten up the scene of your home. Sometimes they’re decorated with sequins, glitter, and pictures.
Most of the pictures are Christmas themed, like Santa, reindeer, or maybe even a present or a snowman.
Over time, families began to make their own stockings and put all kinds of decor on them. Some stockings might be hung around the house only for decor purposes and not for gifts.
A while ago, red stockings became a very popular decoration for Christmas. Also, the shapes of them have changed over time, ranging from being wide and fluffy to thin and long. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Oops. My hand slipped. I didn’t mean to- I DIDN’T-
My Family’s Stocking Tradition
Families all over the world use their stockings in different ways for Christmas, including mine.
Every Black Friday, my family and I decorate for Christmas, hanging our stockings on the mantel. We use different objects to hang them on, like decorated pieces with hooks on them. (The editor would like to mention that she tries to get out of it every year by claiming a different ailment. It never works. I don’t know why I still attempt it.)
Every one of our stockings has a different Christmas themed character on them.
The first one I had was homemade- in fact, all of our first stockings were homemade, but over the years our dogs have gotten to them… more than once! So, we usually buy them online now.
We leave them empty, just hanging there until Christmas Eve, when the magic happens. During the night, our stockings are filled with small toys, candy, and clothing.
My brother, who is only 8, receives the more childish items like toys and candy. Lucky…wish I still did. (Editor: No, you don’t, you chewed-up eraser. This man acts like he doesn’t gorge himself on “stealthily” hidden, tooth-rotting candy that barely looks edible for the entire season of winter. He does not need more, God forbid.)
My sister, who is 16, gets a couple of little trinkets, but mostly art materials and school supplies.
I’m 13, so I get a couple toys here and there and maybe a few pieces of candy, but now it’s mostly socks and underwear, which I’m fine with. (Which i’M fiNe WiTh- mhm. Yeah. Sure. I can hear the bitterness.)
Then, on New Year’s day, we take down all of our Christmas decor, including our stockings, and have the long wait till next Christmas.
Christmas has that inexplicable quality of lasting forever and being over in the blink of an eye at the exact same time. There’s always such a lead-up filled with countless expectations and anxious, restless nights, that basically culminates into a sleepy morning and a good breakfast.
There’s a certain… dissociative, dreamy feel to Christmas Day that never alters, no matter how many years pass. It’s peaceful, no matter how much my brother screams.
And then the day is over and that’s that. Time is strange. But, then again, isn’t everything?