Year after year, December upon December, something in our self-consciousness hits auto-drive and we assume yearly activities better known as traditions. Adorning a tree in the corner of the living room, stringing sparkling lights on the gutters, having a year’s dose of eggnog in one sitting, all these things we are familiar with, but how often have you stopped to wonder where these intrinsic traditions come from? Just before the holiday season hits its peak, here for you today, a brief history of a garment-inspired tradition; the Christmas Stocking.

Xmas Stocking Add 1918 - Smithsonian
Christmas Stocking Ad – 1918 – from the Smithsonian 

Sure, you had them as a kid, and now you have them for your kids, but did you know that the Stocking above the fireplace can be dated way back before your colorful socks could even be stuffed? One of the earliest recorded occurrences of the Christmas Stockings can be dated back to the 1823 publication of Twas the Night Before Christmas, where the stockings were hung next to the chimney with care, but anything before that, the true origin of this still relevant Christmas tradition fades from the history books and onto the pages of fantasy:

 

 

 

On the eve before Christmas morning, a recent widow paced around the fireplace of his small hut located in the middle of town, not feeling the warmth of the flames but heated by the worry of the upcoming holiday. With his wife recently passing, all the man had left was three beautiful daughters nearly at an age where they would be expected to marry soon. As if his wife passing wasn’t reason to pace enough, the man was also very concerned with the family’s financial capabilities of attracting suitable suitors for his daughters’ hands in marriage. Without the financial means, his daughters would never marry, and without marriage, in that time and age, the man worried feverishly about the long-term happiness of the only women left in his heart. He went to bed that night, worried about the uncertainties of tomorrow, and his worries, all known by the fellow townsfolk, followed him into his dreams.

In town, Saint Nicholas, the same man who would later become the modern day Santa Claus, heard of the man’s troubles from the village friends. With a slyness and perhaps small breach of privacy allowed for legends of old, Saint Nick, in the dark of night, snuck down the man’s chimney to spread the holiday cheer. Once inside the home, Saint Nick found the stockings that hung above the chimney, drying from the day before, and as to not insult the villager’s humility, he hid three presents for the daughters to find the next day. The legend varies with what Saint Nick hid in those stockings, but everyone seems to agree that gold in some form was involved, enough gold for the three daughters to live comfortably, find someone deserving of their love, and of course, live happily ever after unknowingly as the origin of a timeless tradition.

stockings

Whether you tell this tale next to the crackling fireplace, or think of its message as you stuff someone’s stocking, hopefully it can be one of those little things that make your holiday season a little bit more meaningful.

 

Good tidings from your friends at Fin & Feather.

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