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Christmas Stockings

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. That line from “Twas’ the Night Before Christmas” conjures up happy memories.  As children, we emptied filled Christmas stockings, and now many years later, we fill them for our children and grandchildren.

            Although the author of this popular Christmas poem has been disputed, it’s documented that it was first published in the Troy Sentinel newspaper in New York on December 23, 1823.  At the time, no one claimed to have written “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” the original title, but in 1844, Clement Clark Moore acknowledged authorship when he included the poem in his poetry collection.

Moore’s poem wasn’t the beginning of Christmas stockings, but I must share that “Twas’ the Night Before Christmas” established the names of Santa’s eight tiny reindeer – all except Rudolph – and connected St. Nicholas to Christmas which led to our image of Santa Claus.

            The tradition of filled stockings began in Asia Minor when a nobleman named Nicholas, born in A. D. 280, often left gifts for children late at night.  He didn’t want anyone to know who gave the gifts so Nicholas spread the word that children must go to bed to receive gifts.

            One legend tells of a wealthy family whose life changed when the father, a merchant, fell into poverty and he feared that he couldn’t provide dowries for his three daughters.  When St. Nicholas heard this he stopped at the merchant’s home and threw three bags filled with gold coins down the chimney.  The bags fell into the girls’ stockings which were hung by the fireplace mantle to dry. 

            The next morning the girls found the coins, and, as expected, they later married and lived happily ever after. This story spread through the small village, then throughout the land, and children began to hang their stockings by the fireplace hoping to receive gifts from St. Nicholas.

            Centuries later, Moore wrote of Christmas stockings hung by the chimney.  And now, the hanging of stockings is one of the most popular Christmas traditions.  If there’s no chimney, stockings are hung from doorknobs or windowsills or kitchen counters or even left lying under Christmas trees.

            Family tradition usually determines what is in stockings.  My childhood stocking always had a huge straight peppermint candy stick and Brazil nuts – things I ate only one time a year.  I know a family that fills stockings with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and underwear.  Another includes gifts, even the most treasured gift.

            When my 11-year-old Grand and I talked about stockings, she said that stockings are fun because there are surprises inside.  “Something you didn’t ask for or put on your wish list and there’s always something to eat,” she said. 

            My Grand is right and no one is too old for Christmas stockings.  I’ll leave my empty stocking under the tree on Christmas Eve in hopes that St. Nicholas, aka Husband, will be here.  He knows my favorite candy.

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