Christmas Stockings

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Are you one of those super organized holiday people who have up their Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving and mail out their Christmas cards the following week? I used to be, but I have to admit, not so much lately.  As of today just about the only decorating I’ve done is to hang up the Christmas stockings. (Mantle is looking mighty crowded these days – I LOVE it!!)

The four stockings made from the same fabric are ones I made for my kids when they were very young. I even crossed stitched their names and a holiday design on the cuff. When my oldest daughter got married I purchased her husband a stocking but cross stitched a cuff to add to it so that it matched the other four. Unfortunately, by the time my next daughter got married my cross stitching days were behind me. So I personalized the rest of them with jaunty embroidered patches.

 

As I was taking care of that fun bit of holiday tradition (and remembering holidays past), it made me wonder, where did the custom of hanging stockings come from.  So I decided to do a bit of research.

It turns out that there are two schools of thought on how this came to be, both shrouded in myth and tradition.

The most popular theory is that it is linked to the stories surrounding the generosity of the original St. Nicholas. Nicholas lived in the third century and was renowned for his concern for and generosity toward those in need. One story tells of a poor widower who had three daughters. The man was distraught over the fate his daughters were facing since he had now dowry to offer prospective husbands. The story goes that Nicholas heard of the family’s plight and secretly, so as to not gain honor for himself, entered their home and left gold coins in the girls stocking which were hung by the fire to dry. Thus the practice of hanging stockings by the fireplace in hopes of receiving a gift was born. Oh, and sometimes an alternate version is given that has Nicholas leaving a small gold ball in each stocking. This is supposedly where the custom of putting oranges in the toe of stockings comes from.

 

The second theory on the origin of the Christmas comes from a completely different belief system, that of Norse mythology. According to this version, children would fill their shoes with straw, root vegetables or sugar and leave them on the hearth for Odin’s flying horse  to eat. As a reward for their kindness Odin would replace their offering with one of his own, that of gifts or sweets.

This practice was widely spread through Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Once Christianity was adopted, the legend of Odin’s benevolence merged with the stories of St. Nicholas evolving over time into today’s current practice.

 

Whatever the truth of the matter, I’m glad this fun tradition is part of our current day holiday celebrations.

 

So what about you? Does your family hang stockings? Is there a story behind any of the stockings themselves?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of two copies of the re-release of The Christmas Journey

Philadelphia lawyer Ryland Lassiter is everything Josephine Wylie wants – for a brother-in-law!  As the sole supporter of her family, Josie’s plans for herself have always had to wait.  But Ryland will be ideal as the new head of the Wylie clan…once he finally realizes how perfect he is for her sister.

 

Ry knows its time to settle down.  The newly appointed guardian to a friend’s daughter, he’s ready for a home and family.  All he needs is a bride…and Josie’s sister is not the Wylie who has caught his eye.  If only Josie would see the truth – that the only Christmas present he needs is her love.

Winnie Griggs
Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author or email her at winnie@winniegriggs.com.
Updated: December 2, 2018 — 10:47 pm

42 Comments

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  1. Love your post,Winnie! I hang stockings and I always had a stocking growing up. No story just a wonderful tradition.

    1. Thanks Melanie. Strangely enough we didn’t do stockings when I was a child. But it is a tradition I knew I wanted to start for my own kids.

  2. We do hang stockings. When my kids were little I made felt stockings for the family. I am terrible at crafts but they still have sentimental value. They have been “retired” and are no longer filled but still hang where we can see them each year, and instead we hang a variety of stocking to accommodate all the additional family members. When I was growing up for some reason my mother and grandmother used support hose as our stockings. We didn’t hang them but rather they showed up in the morning. We opened our gifts after Santa had come and gone at midnight and then apparently Santa came back to leave the stockings. Those support hose are long and skinny and the contents would be end-to-end. They sure do hold a lot, though!

    1. Hi Sally. It’s wonderful that you still honor the tradition behind those original felt stockings, I’m sure your family cherishes them. And LOL on those “long and skinny” support hose. 🙂

  3. Thank you for a lovely post, Winnie. Stocking always make me think of my mom who grew up during the Great Depression when an orange and some walnuts were a really big treat. All her life she thought oranges were essential elements of stockings, regardless of whatever was included–although it was usually candy canes and maybe other kinds of candy.

    1. Hi Eliza. What sweet memories to cherish this Christmas season.

      1. You said what I meant to say–memories of my mom who has been gone just four years but it still feels recent. The other thing I forgot to tell you was she was a little girl in Eastern Oklahoma when the Dust Bowl hit the western part of the state. But since the dust went as far as New York City, I’m sure they felt it, as well as drought and economic conditions of that time. Her dad was born there when it was Indian Territory in 1896 so history and westerns really pull me in.

        I also forgot to say Merry Christmas!

      2. Oh no, another addition–this time about Christmas history, which I really enjoyed in your blog. I hope you don’t mind my thoughts.

        First, I found this about Santa Claus: “The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends.”

        Then, I found that the Romans wrote about Odin, but since the empire collapsed in the 400s, we’re talking about a very similar time period since Odin was very likely around long before the Romans encountered the Germanic peoples.

        So, like you said, I too think two separate traditions merged. Also, Yule is a Germanic-derived term connected with Odin in a pre-Christian time period, and we know Christmas was set at the winter solstice to bring the pagan celebrations into Christianity. So the Germanic shoe tradition likely pre-dated a third century monk, but in the end Christianity prevailed.

        In the Netherlands today, children still leave a shoe out for “Sinterklaas” on Dec 5. “St. Nicholas’ Day is on the 6th December, but in The Netherlands, the major celebrations are held on the 5th December, St. Nicholas’ Eve. The name Santa Claus comes from the name Sinterklaas.”
        “Christmas celebrations in The Netherlands are separate from the visit of Sinterklaas! Christmas Day itself is a much quieter day in The Netherlands, with a Church Service and family meal…. …because they have already received most of their presents on St. Nicholas Day.”

        I promise I’ll stop now.

        1. “In the Old Norse sources the pagan celebration of Jul in the Nordic countries is often described as “to drink jul/yule”. The central aspect of the pagan Germanic celebration of midwinter was to eat and drink well. To bake and to produce ale and mead were important preparations for the celebration. In medieval wooden calendars and pre-Christian picture stones, this celebration is still symbolised by a barrel of ale, or a drinking horn. So the emphasis on food and drink traditions was originally a pagan trait of the Christmas celebration.”

          1. Eliza, I love your enthusiasm for this topic! Isn’t it fun to lose yourself in those rabbit trails and see where they lead you?

            1. Thank you, Winnie, for your graciousness and kindness about my turning into wild pagan Christmas hare on your Christmas stocking page! 🙂

  4. We do hang stockings. They are so much fun. And we read The Night Before Christmas.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

    1. What fun that you read to your children.

  5. Didn’t do stockings when I was a child. My children had stockings knitted by their Grandmother and my two Grandsons have stockings knitted by my oldest daughter, their Aunt—-nice and stretchy.

    1. Looking, hand knitted stockings – that sounds so lovely and special. I imagine they are very much cherished.

  6. Welcome Winnie. Love all the stockings. I made stockings also. One year when our daughter was around 10, she realized that dad and mom did not have a stocking. So without my realizing it, she took some of my Christmas fabric and sewed both dad and mom a stocking and her and her brother bought things to put in them. And what a surprise on Christmas day to find them. We still have them. Yes I am one of those who put up Christmas decorations the weekend after thanksgiving. When the kids where home it was a lot of fun. Now that they are gone, I still put up the weekend after Thanksgiving, but we have downsized greatly.

    1. Awww, what a sweet daughter you have. And of course you still have them, it’s a treasure of the heart.

  7. We didn’t have stocking as kids but my paternal grandparents always made christmas fun.

    1. Kim, we didn’t have stockings at our house when I was a kid either, but I knew I was loved and that’s what is truly what’s important.

  8. Good morning Winnie, what a fun post. My oldest daughter was born in December and the hospital photographer put all the newborns in a red stocking, so that became her permanent Christmas stocking, a no-brainer. When her sister was born I stitched and embroidered one for her out of candy-cane fabric. Those have remained their stockings throughout their lives. I like anything that has meaning and was handed down. I start putting stuff up after Thanksgiving except for the lights, which are permanent. We hung them last year before my husband and I get too old to go up ladders.

    1. Hello Kathy. Oh what a fun thing for the hospital folks to do! And what a cool memento to have!

  9. When my son was born we bought a stocking that he fit in and it still hangs today and its great for putting socks and things in. My girlfriend also cross stitched him a stocking that first year and it hangs every year also although they are about 30 years old now I still hang them.

    1. What a lucky lad your son is! Not one but two special stockings for him.

  10. Great post Winnie. I always had stockings for my seven kids. A wonderful tradition that has past on year after year. As my kids got older and had their own families I gave them their stockings to hang on their own mantles.

    1. Hi Carol. Sounds like a great tradition. I’ve done just the opposite. As my kids built families of their own, I added new stockings for them to add to my mantle.

  11. A friend of my parents made us (in the 1950’s – 4 siblings) felt stockings with felt train, puppies, etc. on them. When I got married, mom made them (using same pattern pieces) for my husband & 2 girls. I put them up every year until I gave the girls theirs a couple years ago. I still put up ours every year.

  12. Oh, what a lovely, multi-generational tradition. Do you think your children will continue it?

  13. Christmas stockings has always been a tradition in my family! And now we do it in my family. I love stockings!!! Presents are fun too but there is something about the surprises that make their way in the stockings. Even as a child I was more excited to see what Santa left me in my stocking! It wouldn’t be Christmas without stockings!

    1. How fun! A child like anticipation on the recipients’ part is one of the joys of giving.

  14. We always have stockings up for Christmas… even have some for our larger pets! I still use the one I have had since I was a kid!

    1. Hi Colleen. I will admit that, although they aren’t in the picture I posted, I also have stockings for my kids’ dogs as well. 🙂

  15. Our Stocking Tradition began with “The Night Before Christmas” Over 60 years ago now. Love Christmas and Kids…

    Just wanted to Thank you for including children in your books I just love it kids make the story more realistic and endearing. Historicals and Cowboys all of which you do so well.
    Recently bought several of your christmas theme books which I’m looking forward to reading soon.

    Thanks for sharing your Talent and allowing your readers to dream.

    Cowboy crazy in Texas.
    Peggy H

    1. Oh Peggy, thank YOU for those very kind words. I so hope you enjoy the books.

  16. I cross stitched both of my children stockings when they were little. I still hang them up even though they are grown.

    1. Hi Susan, you sound very much like me 🙂

  17. Since we don’t have a mantle, and my shelf space is limited, I repurposed a wrought iron basket stand (popular in the 80s and 90s) for the stockings. It’s perfect and has lots of room for when the boys marry and have children.

    1. Hi Denise, good going – that sounds like a very clever solution!

  18. We have always done stockings that my mother in law has made. No real tradition except to open them while in our pjs, sipping hot cocoa and watching Christmas movies!

    1. Oh wow Susan, that sounds like a LOT of tradition to me! 🙂

  19. Winnie, that’s exactly what we did! Mom is from Holland and although we hung stockings for Christmas, we also always put out our wooden shoes (klompen) for Sinterklaas. We’d put hay and carrots out for his white horse and Sinterklaas would leave us gingerbread treats, chocolate letters, bags of chocolate gold coins, and some other toy treat.

    1. Hi Samantha. What fun! To celebrate both traditions of the stocking and the wooden shoes you get the best of both worlds!

  20. I had to laugh when I read your post. I have stockings for the family, but they are not up yet. I, too, made stockings for the family and embroidered the names on them. We likely used the same pattern. Later arrivals joining the family have purchased stockings. Illness plus being out of town have prevented me from getting any decorations up yet. The next week or so are really busy, so if I get any decorating done, it will be after the 15th of the month. I have been dropping obligations because of illness and hope by next year I will be able to get the decorating mostly done on Thanksgiving weekend like we used to do.
    Thanks for sharing.

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