And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care! Are you thinking about cutting back on stocking stuffers this year, or do the stockings in your home represent yet another source of fulfilling earthly desires?
The idea of stockings is one that has been around since the dawn of Christmases past. Long before Santa wore a red suit and flew around the world with reindeer, every culture has had some rendition of the origination of the Christmas stocking. How did they come about? What is the meaning behind the Christmas stocking?
One of the favorite stories about the origination of Christmas stockings come from a book called Santa and His Works, by Thomas Nast. Legend tells this story about how and why the holiday tradition of Christmas stockings originated:
Once there was a father with three beautiful daughters. Although the daughters were kind and strong, the father despaired of them ever making good marriages, because he didn’t have enough money to pay their dowries.
One day, St. Nicholas of Myra was passing through their village and heard the locals discussing the plight of these poor girls. St Nicholas knew the father would be too proud to accept an outright gift. So he waited till dark, snuck to the man’s house, and dropped three bags of gold coins down the chimney.
The daughters had spent the evening washing clothes, and had hung their stockings by the fireplace to dry. The gold coins dropped into the stockings, one bag for each daughter. In the morning, they awoke to find enough money to make them each a generous dowry, and all married well and happily.
As word of St. Nicholas’ generosity spread, others began to hang their stockings by the fireplace, hoping for a similar gift.
This story narrated in 1886 was accompanied by pictures of Jolly Old Saint Nick stuffing stockings that were hung on a mantelpiece. And apparently, the tradition caught on. Today, many people are spending a lot of money on stocking stuffers. Even if you shop at Dollar stores or mini marts to find things to put in the stocking, kids are no longer happy or joyous with the sole ripened orange, candy treats, or tiny trinkets. In fact, today’s stockings host things as extravagant as I-Pods and I-phones, expensive jewelry and envelopes stuffed with cash and gift cards. Sure, this is the migration of consumerism into a holiday that is supposed to be about family and love. And yet, it has also sadly taken away the enthusiasm and simplicity of a holiday tradition deeply rooted in the magic of the holidays.
The truth is that the stockings hung on your chimney – or on the wall are symbolic. They are often the last resort of excited children on Christmas morning searching yet another place for more presents and more stuff to add to their collection of toys on this special day. And many parents spend a painstaking amount of time filling the stocking with special (and often pricey) gifts. Others spend a good amount of money buying junky toys that will end up at the bottom of the toy box within two weeks just in order for there to be something inside the stocking. And rarely, do the kids appreciate it.
This Christmas instead of spending a lot of money buy filling your child’s Christmas stocking with useless toys and expensive gadgets, take a stroll to the past, and use some of the more traditional ideas from out ancestors to fill your stockings.
First of course, is some sort of sweet treat. Candy canes or lifesavers or even a bar of chocolate are great (and inexpensive) additions to the Christmas stocking. You might also consider putting a special book inside the stocking, one that can be read aloud for the entire family. This can start a new family tradition, where every child receives a book inside their stocking each and every year. Another nice idea would be to write a handwritten note to each of your children (from Saint Nick) if they are little ones that are heartfelt and meaningful. These notes can be a cherished tradition as the years pass, and one that your children may even want to pass on to their own children. Imagine the magic you will create when decades later your child reads the letters from their parents or from Santa written years and years ago.
Another dated tradition is to place an orange or tangerine in the toe of the Christmas stocking. This orange is symbolic of the ‘money’ that Saint Nick used to fill the dowry in the story above. Golden coins filled with chocolate are also a nice time honored traditional gift that you can add as a stocking stuffer to please your children.
Last but not least, choose a favorite family picture to add in your child’s Christmas stocking. This can help to reinforce the idea that the holidays are not just about gifts and getting but also about appreciating and loving the people in your life who you call family.
While most of us use the holidays to indulge the wants and desires of our children, we should also work hard and be creative about infusing the holidays with family tradition and culture. Changing the way you fill your Christmas stockings can be that little something you do that makes your Christmas truly special and can help your children to learn to appreciate the ‘little’ things in life.