Origins of holiday stocking tradition revealed

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

As with many traditions, the exact origin is unknown but the most recognized is the one honoring the generous nature of Saint Nicholas in the 1823 poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” by Clement C. Moore. Historically, Saint Nicholas was a charitable bishop in the third and fourth century living in Myra, now Turkey.

Legend says that a widower nobleman with three daughters squandered all his wealth, leaving nothing for his daughters’ dowries. One night while everyone was sleeping, Saint Nicholas left a bag of gold in each girl’s stocking, which had been hung to dry by the hearth. In the morning, the girls were overjoyed upon finding the gold coins, which provided them enough to be married and live 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 the reindeer treat, “Sinterclass” would leave treats in the children’s clogs. The clogs later became stockings.

According to other legends, the tradition started in Germany. The traditional practice was to reserve the stocking for gifts for five senses, for example:

• Something to eat, such as fruit or candy;

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

• Something visually pleasing, such as jewelry, a pen or coloring book;

• Something with tactile appeal, such as modeling clay, a soft toy or soft holiday socks; and

• Something with a distinctive scent, such as bubble-bath, cologne or perfume.

By tradition, stockings are hung on the fireplace, but, many homes do not have fireplaces, so they are hung in any location.

Originally, children used everyday socks, but eventually special Christmas and holiday stockings were created.

Today, many kinds of holiday stockings are available. Many mothers or grandmothers create their own holiday stockings, adding each family member’s name.

Information for this article was provided by Marjorie M. Baker, University of Kentucky clothing and textiles Extension associate.


Reducing holiday stress for those with young children

Holidays should be a time of joy for families. But often they are a time of stress. Try these ways to reduce holiday stress:

Keep a regular schedule. Children find comfort in routines, especially at busy, stressful times. They are happier with regular daily routines during the holidays.

Limit television time. Watching too much TV and commercials can cause children to become overly active. Play games, watch children’s holiday specials together or play outdoors with your children.

Have fun.Remember children love special activities all year long, not only during the holidays. Make time for special activities with your children all year. Baking cookies together in January or February is fun and a great family activity. 

Set realistic holiday expectations.You don’t have to do everything. Make a list together of things you would like to do during the holidays. As a family, pick out three things you most want to do and have time to do.

Enjoying fewer activities together is better than trying to do too many and being stressed.

Holiday wishes

The Carroll County Extension staff wishes you and yours a beautiful holiday. Our office will be closed Monday, Dec. 24, through Tuesday, Jan. 1. We will reopen Wednesday, Jan. 2.

Dates of interest

Dec. 19: Carroll County Extension Homemakers monthly program at Fairview Place, 2 p.m. All members invited to join in this holiday activity.


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.