History of Stocking Stuffers

Posted by GoGo Goodie on November 07, 2011.

Yes, it's coming....the holiday shopping season!  It never ceases to amaze me that as soon as Halloween ends, on November 1st, retailer's isles are filled with holiday ornaments and gifts, all vying for your attention.  So, in the vein of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" I'll be jumping on the holiday band wagon with special blogs about Christmas and Stocking Stuffers.  Today, I'm diving into the history and lore behind the Christmas Stocking.

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.

St. 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. 

Another lead ties the Christmas Stocking to a custom derived from the Germanic figure Odin (Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard).  Children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw or sugar near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy.  This practice survived in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands after the adoption of Christianity and became associated with Saint Nicholas. 

Hope you enjoyed today's history lesson!  Stay tuned over the coming weeks to  GoGo Goodie as we talk all things Holiday and Stocking Stuffers!


Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up