Nothing signifies the holidays more than the hanging of the stocking on the fireplace mantle.
As with many of our traditions, the exact origin is unknown. However, stockings were mentioned in the 1823 poem, “A visit from St. Nicholas,” written by Clement C. Moore. There was a St. Nicholas, a bishop who lived during the third and fourth century in what is now Turkey.
The legend tells us that a widower nobleman with three daughters squandered all his wealth away, leaving nothing for his daughters’ dowries. One night while sleeping, St. Nicholas left three bags of gold, one in each of the girls’ stockings that had been hung by the hearth to dry.
In the morning, the girls were overjoyed to find the gold coins, giving them enough to be married. And as with all stories, they lived happily ever after.
Others say that the Dutch introduced the custom of hanging a stocking. During the 16th century, children in Holland would leave their clogs by the hearth filled with straw for Santa’s reindeer. In exchange, Santa or “Sinterklass,” would leave treats for the children. The clogs would later become stockings.
By tradition, the stocking is hung on the fireplace, but since many modern homes don’t have fireplaces, stockings are hung in almost any location. Originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but eventually special Christmas and holiday stockings were created for this purpose.
Today, stores carry a tremendous variety of styles and sizes of holiday stockings, from small and conservative, to long and stretchy, to gigantic. Many families even create their own holiday stockings with each family member’s name applied to the stocking so that “Santa” won’t be confused about which stocking belongs to which person.
From all the staff at the Clark County Extension Office, happy holidays!