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The Tradition of Hanging Christmas Stockings

How do other countries celebrate the holiday?

By:  |  December 24, 2023  |    505 Words
GettyImages-1397997331 Christmas stockings

(Photo by Pierce Archive LLC/Buyenlarge via Getty Images)

Every year, Americans hang Christmas stockings in hopes that Santa Clause will fill them with fun toys and delicious treats. While it may be a yearly occurrence in American homes, have you ever wondered how this tradition began? Several stories describe the start of hanging stockings, but none have  been proven correct. Perhaps the most well-known tale is about a man named St. Nicholas and his desire to help those in need.

The Legend of St. Nicholas

The legend says that a once wealthy man lost his wife and eventually his fortune. He was left to raise his three daughters alone, hoping that they would marry one day. Unfortunately, women were considered ineligible for marriage at the time unless they had something substantial (land or money) to offer to their husbands’ families. Facing extreme poverty, the father was saddened that, without riches, his daughters may never be able to marry.

St. Nicholas heard of the man’s struggles. He knew the man would not accept any charity, so when he noticed the family’s laundry hanging near the fire, he decided to stuff their stockings with pouches of gold. The following morning, the family woke up and found the money in their stockings. At last, the young women were able to find husbands, and their father was extremely pleased. Interestingly, the oranges that many people see in their Christmas stockings are meant to represent the gold left by St. Nicholas. The first time stuffing Christmas stockings appeared in literature was the 1822 book A Visit from St. Nicholas.

GettyImages-117581261 Christmas stocking

(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

Christmas Stockings Around the World

Some version of the Christmas stocking tradition is carried out each year all over the world, though how it’s done can vary from culture to culture. For example, in Ecuador, the children stuff their shoes with their Christmas wish lists. Then, the next morning, they find new shoes and presents placed there by Papa Noel.

In France, children place a carrot for Père Noël‘s donkey inside their shoes , which they put next to the fireplace. They wake up to find toys, candy, and money in place of the treat. Puerto Rican kids fill a box with cut grass for the Three Kings’ camels. They place the box under the bed, and when they wake, they find the grass is gone and a toy has been put in the box.

In Iceland, the excited munchkins put their shoes on the windowsill. Instead of Santa, thirteen magical elves, called Olasveiner, come to the house (one each day for thirteen days) and leave presents in the shoes. Rather than coal, children who are not well-behaved are given potatoes rather than treats.

The United Kingdom (UK) celebrates much as Americans do. The children hang stockings over the fireplace so Father Christmas can drop coins down the chimney and into the stockings.

No matter how your country celebrated the magical holiday, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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