Christmas stocking

Christmas stocking

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A Christmas stocking is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that children hang on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

 so that Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a folklore figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus...

 (or Father Christmas
Father Christmas
Father Christmas is the name used in many English-speaking countries for a figure associated with Christmas. A similar figure with the same name exists in several other countries, including France , Spain , Brazil , Portugal , Italy , Armenia , India...

) can fill it with small toy
Toy
A toy is any object that can be used for play. Toys are associated commonly with children and pets. Playing with toys is often thought to be an enjoyable means of training the young for life in human society. Different materials are used to make toys enjoyable and cuddly to both young and old...

s, candy
Candy
Candy, specifically sugar candy, is a confection made from a concentrated solution of sugar in water, to which flavorings and colorants are added...

, fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

, coin
Coin
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

s or other small gifts when he arrives. These small items are often referred to as stocking stuffers or stocking fillers. In some Christmas stories, the contents of the Christmas stocking are the only toys the child receives at Christmas from Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a folklore figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus...

; in other stories (and in tradition), some presents are also wrapped up in wrapping paper
Wrapping Paper
"Wrapping Paper" is a song with music composed by Jack Bruce and lyrics by Pete Brown, performed by Cream and originally released as a single in 1966 with "Cat's Squirrel" as the B side. It is featured on The Very Best of Cream...

 and placed under the Christmas tree
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

. Tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

 in Western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 dictates that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a piece of coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

. However, coal is rarely if ever left in a stocking, as it is considered cruel.

History


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.

Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas , also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century saint and Greek Bishop of Myra . Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker...

 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
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 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. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

A tradition that began in a European country originally, children simply used one of their everyday sock
Sock
A sock is an item of clothing worn on the feet. The foot is among the heaviest producers of sweat in the body, as it is able to produce over of perspiration per day. Socks help to absorb this sweat and draw it to areas where air can evaporate the perspiration. In cold environments, socks decrease...

s, but eventually special Christmas stockings were created for this purpose. The Christmas stocking custom is derived from the Germanic figure Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

. According to Phyllis Siefker, children would place their boots, filled with carrot
Carrot
The carrot is a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, red, white, and yellow varieties exist. It has a crisp texture when fresh...

s, straw
Straw
Straw is an agricultural by-product, the dry stalks of cereal plants, after the grain and chaff have been removed. Straw makes up about half of the yield of cereal crops such as barley, oats, rice, rye and wheat. It has many uses, including fuel, livestock bedding and fodder, thatching and...

, or sugar
Sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

, 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, she claims, survived in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 and the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 after the adoption of Christianity and became associated with Saint Nicholas as a result of the process of Christianization. Today, stores carry a large variety of styles and sizes of Christmas stockings, and Christmas stockings are also a popular homemade craft.

Many families create their own Christmas stockings with each family member's name applied to the stocking so that Santa will know which stocking belongs to which family member.

A 'Square Stocking' is a box sent by the charity Uk4u-Thanks!
Uk4u-Thanks!
uk4u-Thanks! is a UK based charity which sends Christmas Boxes to all members of the UK's Armed Forces serving overseas or in hospital at Christmas. It is run by four Director Trustees and is supported by the Ministry of Defence....

 to UK servicemen who are overseas or injured at Christmas.

The World's Largest Christmas Stocking


The World's Biggest Christmas Stocking was created by supporters of The Children's Society
The Children's Society
The Children's Society, formally The Church of England Children's Society, is a UK charity allied to the Church of England and driven by a belief that all children deserve a good childhood.-History:...

 in December 2007. Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records, known until 2000 as The Guinness Book of Records , is a reference book published annually, containing a collection of world records, both human achievements and the extremes of the natural world...

 awarded the stocking the title of the Largest Christmas Stocking on 14 December 2007 at ExCel in London. The previous holder of the title had broken the record in Canada just weeks before this attempt with a stocking measuring 19.25m by 8.23m.

It was made out of over 6,000 squares of red knitting and measured 32.56m long, and 14.97m wide (heel to toe). It weighed the equivalent of three [reindeer] and was filled with 1000 presents, which were then given to children in The Children's Society's projects.

The stocking was created as part of The Children's Society's knitting fundraising appeal, 'The Big Stitch'. £33,000 was raised through sponsorship.

See also

  • Christmas shopping
  • Christmas decorations

External links