The legend of the Christmas stocking is a tale of a kind nobleman who lost all his money. He had three daughters and was worried that he could not provide them with dowries, which means wealth that a woman’s family would give to her husband before marriage. St. Nicholas heard about the nobleman’s problem and arrived at his house on Christmas night. While there, he noticed that the daughters had left their stockings over the fireplace to dry. St. Nicholas decided to fill the daughter’s stockings with gold so the daughters each had enough money to get married. It is said that they and the nobleman lived happily ever after. Though the truth of the tale cannot be proven, versions of it have been told all over the world.
Children throughout the globe hang Christmas stockings or leave out their shoes in the hope that St. Nicholas will bring them gifts on Christmas Eve. In France, shoes are put out for him to fill with treats. In Holland, children fill their shoes with hay for the horse of Sintirklass. He leaves gifts to thank the children for their kindness. Italian children have a slightly different tradition. They leave their shoes out the night before Epiphany, January 5 so the good witch will fill their shoes with treats.
Christmas stockings in America appeared in the nineteenth century, when Clement Moore wrote the famous poem “The Night Before Christmas.” That poem represented the first time stockings were hung near a chimney. Today stockings can be hung almost anywhere in American homes and often bear the name of the stocking’s owner so Santa will know where to put the goodies. Although children in the past received gifts of candy and fruit in their stockings, today’s American children may find other gifts such as toys left for them.