The Sock Life

The Origin of Christmas Stockings

origin of christmas stockings


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

—Clement Clarke Moore

We’ve all heard this piece of the famous “A Visit from St. Nicholas” poem time and time again. This poem was first published in 1823 and helped shape the projections of Santa Claus that society has today.

The most common story on the origin of Christmas stockings tells of St. Nicholas—a Bishop in the fourth century AD in Myra, the area of land now formally known as Turkey.

This tale tells of a penniless, widowed father who had three beautiful daughters. During these times, in order to be married, the bride’s family needed to offer a dowry—a sum of money or area of land—to the groom’s family. Seeing as the father was very poor and could not afford a dowry, let alone three of them, he feared that his daughters would never marry.

St. Nicholas had recently inherited his deceased parents’ fortune and wanted to use it to benefit those less fortunate. He heard of this kind family’s struggles and wanted to help anyway he could. He knew his people were very proud, regardless of their hardships, and would not be receptive of a handout. Therefore, he decided to help them secretively.

One night, the three daughters had washed their clothing and hung their stockings on the fireplace to dry. On this same night, St. Nicholas visited the house and dropped three pouches of gold coins down through the chimney. The coins landed in each of the girl’s stockings, making for a joyful morning when the family awoke. Another version of this part of the story says that St. Nicholas shimmied down the chimney and specifically placed coins in each of the stockings; either way, the outcome is the same.

Once word spread through the village of a generous man leaving gifts in hung stockings, each night children started hanging their stockings by the fireplace in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

While this story may just be ancient folklore, the idea it shares of being selfless for the benefit of others is a true importance of Christmas that should always be remembered.

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