Christmas stocking origins may go back to third century

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Nothing signifies the holidays like the hanging of festive colored stockings on the fireplace mantle.

As with many traditions, the exact origin is unknown.

However the most recognized origin is the one that honors St. Nicholas. Stockings are mentioned in the 1823 poem, “A Visit from St. Nich-olas,” written by Clement C. Moore.  

Histor-ically St. Nicholas was a charitable bishop from the third century in Myra which is the modern day Turkey.

Legend tells us that a widower nobleman with three daughters squandered all his wealth away leaving nothing for his daughters’ dowries.

One night while all were sleeping, St. Nicholas left three bags of gold, one each in the girls’ stockings that had been hung by the hearth to dry.

In the morning, the girls were overjoyed to find the gold coins, giving them enough to be married.  They lived happily ever after.

Some say the Dutch introduced the custom to America.

During the 16th century, children in Holland would leave their clogs by the hearth filled with straw for Santa’s reindeer. In exchange for a treat left for Santa, “Sinterclass” would leave treats for the children. The clogs later became stockings.

According to Wikipedia, the tradition started in Germany. The traditional practice was to reserve the stocking for five gifts that stimulate each of the five senses, for example:

• Something to eat, like fruit or candy.

• A toy or other item that makes a noise (this can even include nuts to crack).

• An item that is visually pleasing in any way like jewelry, cuff-links or a coloring book.

• Something that has tactile appeal such as modeling clay, a soft toy, lingerie or a pair of novelty holiday socks.

• Any item with a distinctive scent such as bubble-bath, cologne, perfume.

By tradition, the stocking is hung on the fireplace, but stockings may be hung in almost any location.

Originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but later, special Christmas and holiday stockings were created.

Today, there are many kinds of holiday stockings available to buy.

Many families create their own holiday stockings with each family member’s name applied to the stocking so that Santa (or the family members) aren’t confused about which stocking belongs to which family member.

Source:  Marjorie M. Baker, Extension Associate for Clothing and Textiles, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture

Holiday toy injuries

During the holidays, many of us shop for toys for children. For many children, getting new toys is the greatest joy. 

New U.S. toy safeguards help prevent many injuries such as:

• Establishing the lowest lead content and lead paint limits in the world

• Converting the voluntary toy standard into a mandatory standard.

• Work with Customs and Border Protection systems to track shipments from other countries thus increasing our effectiveness in discovering dangerous products coming into U.S. ports.

These safeguards have contributed to a dramatic decline in toy recalls since 2008.

There were 44 toy recalls in fiscal year 2010. This is down from 50 recalls in 2009 and 172 recalls in 2008.

Toy recalls related to lead in 2010 were down to three, which is far fewer than nine in 2009 and 19 in 2008.

Still, while recalls and deaths have declined, toy-related injuries have increased.

In 2010, there were an estimated 190,000, and in 2009 there were an estimated 186,000 emergency room-treated toy-related injuries to children up from 152,000 injuries in 2005.

To prevent toy-related injuries, choose the right toy for children:

• Purchase age-appropriate toys. Toys that are acceptable for older children can be hazardous to younger children.

• Keep young children away from older children’s toys.

• Be sure to purchase proper safety equipment and teach your children to use it with riding toys such as skateboards, in-line skates, bicycles and scooters.

• Some toys require batteries. Use of chargers and adapters should be supervised by an adult.

• Purchasing safe gifts for your children and ensure everyone has an enjoyable holiday season.


Grace Angotti is Carroll Co. Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to gangotti@uky.edu.