The role that Christmas stockings play in a family’s celebration of Christmas is not one to be taken lightly. Most adults vividly remember the pride of hanging their own personalized stocking as a child, and the excitement of discovering the small goodies left by Santa. But just how did this tradition come to be, and how has the tradition transformed over the years? Read on to find out.
Origins of the Christmas Stocking
The origination of the Christmas stocking tradition dates back over, shortly after the legend of St. Nicholas took root in the early centuries A.D. Though there are no definitive explanations of how Christmas stockings came to be, several variations of this folktale have been circulated throughout history.
The most popular story being of a poor and widowed Englishman and his the three daughters. The story says that St. Nicholas, known for his kindness and generosity, had discovered the family’s misfortune and set out to deliver an extravagant gift. On Christmas eve, St. Nicholas tossed three bags of gold coins down the family’s chimney, where they landed in the socks that were hung above the fireplace to dry.
The story of the Christmas stockings fissured into several unique traditions. Some would hang their father’s wool socks (the bigger the better, of course), others would hang uniquely decorated sock-shaped bags. On Christmas Day, children around the world would awaken to find their stockings stuffed with small gifts and sweets.
Today’s Christmas Stocking Traditions
Today’s Christmas stockings are typically created in the shape of an oversized sock, and personalized for each individual in the family. Some feature simple names stitched at the top, others are hand-crafted works of art that portray the hobbies and interests of the cheerful individuals.
In the last century, the tradition of Christmas stockings has relaxed, with families experimenting with the location, stocking stuffers, design and fabric. For those that want to venture away from the traditional placement above the fireplace, or for those that don’t have a fireplace, here are some popular alternatives:
- Cascading down a staircase
- Hanging from a DIY mantel
- Perched atop your entertainment stand
- Strung across an open wall
One of the most interesting aspects of modern-day stocking stuffers is the individual practices passed down from generation to generation. Every Christmas, my father is absolutely adamant that each child receives an orange and a new toothbrush, nuzzled among handfuls of candy. This was the tradition passed down to him by his father, and the tradition that his grandfather bestowed upon his father. Each family has their own tradition of stocking stuffers, but the most common items used for stocking stuffers today are:
- Gift cards
- Small toys or games
- Bath and beauty products
When it comes to the fabric options for Christmas stockings, the most common types are wool, velvet, felt, quilted soft cotton, cozy cableknit and burlap. The fabric you choose for your Christmas stockings helps to guide the rest of your Christmas decor. For instance, velvet stockings are the perfect addition to a classic Christmas theme, while burlap stockings are a trendy statement in a modern or rustic theme. Below are examples of the most popular stocking fabrics.