Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The History of Christmas stocking

While no official documentation can trace the history of Christmas stockings, several legends told about the kindly Saint Nicholas inspired the tradition. Now, many Christians hang stockings in anticipation of a visit from St. Nick.
One legend tells of a poor man unable to provide dowries for his three daughters. Without a good marriage, the girls were doomed to a life of slavery and servitude. Saint Nicholas heard of their plight and secretly conspired to help them. In the tradition of the day, the girls would wash laundry, including socks, and hang the laundry up to dry by the fire overnight. Saint Nicholas is said to have secretly thrown a bag of gold into the house, and one bag wound up in each of the girls' stockings.
Worldwide, other origin stories focus more on children's shoes than on their stockings. One story about the origin of Christmas stockings can be traced back to France and the Netherlands. Dutch children would fill their wooden clogs with hay for Sintirklaas' horses. In the morning, the straw would be gone and small treats left in its place. Eventually, the tradition evolved into stockings by the fireplace.
Other shoe traditions from around the world have emerged. In Italy, children leave their shoes out on the night of Epiphany (January 6) for a good witch named La Befana to fill with treats. In Puerto Rico, children celebrate Three Kings Day and put flowers and leaves in small boxes for the wise men's camels. As different cultures moved to the United States, the customs and traditions merged over the years.
The Christmas stocking found a permanent place in Christmas tradition when Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was published in 1822. In the verses, Moore mentions that, "the stockings were hung by the chimney with care / in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there." Later in the poem, St. Nicholas fills each stocking with toys and sweets.

Today, most Christmas stockings in the United States are produced commercially, and many feature different themes, such as animals, baby boys or girls, TV characters or simple Christmas themes. The stockings are only used at Christmas and most are personalized with the child's name


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