While there are no written records of the origin of the Christmas Stocking, there are popular legends that attempt to tell the history of this Christmas tradition. One such legend has several variations, but the following is a good example: Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death.
Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls. St. Nicholas wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn’t accept charity. He decided to help in secret. He waited until it was night and crept through the chimney.
He had three bags of gold coins with him, one for each girl. As he was looking for a place to keep those three bags, he noticed stockings of the three girls that were hung over the mantelpiece for drying. He put one bag in each stocking and off he went. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning, they found the bags of gold coins and were of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after.
This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so, St. Nicholas is a gift-giver. We always had an orange in our stocking but until now I never knew why!
A tradition that began in a European country originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but eventually special Christmas stockings were created for this purpose. The Christmas stocking custom is derived from Germanic/Scandinavian tradition. Today, stores carry a large variety of styles and sizes of Christmas stockings, and Christmas stockings are also a popular homemade craft.
Many families create their own Christmas stockings with each family member’s name applied to the stocking so that Santa will know which stocking belongs to which family member.
A ‘Square Stocking is a box sent by the charity Uk4u-Thanks! to UK servicemen who are overseas or injured at Christmas. I think that is a wonderful idea.
When I was first married I found some antique lace at a store and made our family’s stockings out of green velvet and using the lace as the top cuff. Certainly not as fancy as needlepoint trimmed in fur like we see today but now a family heirloom that our children love!!