Stockings have been an important element of the Christmas custom for decades (except, briefly, in the mid-1800s, when the New York Times wrote that Christmas trees had almost completely supplanted them as the tradition of choice). On December 25, 1950, "he filled all the stockings." That's how the song goes. And it's true: Stockings are again used as a vehicle to give gifts this holiday season.
Actually, stockings have been a part of Christmas since at least A.D. 400, but they weren't called "Christmas stockings" until much later. The word "stockings" comes from the Old English stocgia, which means "a pair of socks," and that's what these gifts were originally called too. The term "Christmas stocking" wasn't coined until 1866, when Mrs. Ann L. Weaver published her book, American Housekeeping. In it, she included directions for making Christmas stockings.
We can thank the Dutch for introducing us to the Christmas tree. They started growing them in Europe as early as 1588, and by 1615 they were being imported into England. By the late 1700s, Christmas trees were being grown in America too. But it was not until after the Civil War that they became popular here.
The specific origins of the Christmas stocking custom are unknown, however there are some hints and ideas. The practice of hanging stockings at Christmas dates back at least to the early nineteenth century in the United States, and it may have originated around the reign of Saint Nicholas in the fourth century CE. During the Middle Ages, peasants would leave their shoes by the door on Christmas Eve so Santa could fill them with gifts.
Santa Claus came over from Europe where he is known as St. Nicholas. He was an Orthodox Christian bishop who lived in what is now Turkey. Legend has it that he was born on 6 December about 270 years after the birth of Jesus Christ. He was ordained a priest in 345 and later became bishop of Myra, one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor. The other six churches were Ephesus, Sardis, Philadelphia, Corinth, Athens and Rome. He is said to have been sent all the way to Russia to restore peace and goodwill among the people after years of war.
In America, there is evidence that Christmas stockings began to appear around 1818 when they were given as gifts to slaves. In 1837, the first published account of children putting toys into their stockings during the Christmas season appeared in the Boston Daily Advertiser. By 1838, the practice had spread across America.
Stockings are great for crafting garlands, advent calendars, bed and chair décor, gift tags, and gifts—just fill a stocking with sweets, cookies, and chocolate and you're done! More inventive ideas for a warm Christmas may be seen here!
One of the most prominent Christmas traditions is the hanging of stockings beside the fireplace. However, the fireplace is not the only option; those without one can hang their stockings on doorknobs, windowsills, or bedposts. Don't worry; Santa Claus will find them anyhow on Christmas Eve!
The custom of putting out gifts and fruit for Santa began in Spain during the 16th century. Since then, it has spread all over the world. Even today in many countries children leave out cookies and milk for Santa.
Do animals also hang their stockings? Yes, animals around the world celebrate Christmas too. They get presents just like humans do. Sometimes they are left under the tree, but more often than not they are left outside. Animals know that humans don't usually put food out for them so they assume that there must be someone around who loves them enough to give them something special.
Some animals enjoy their Christmas more than others. Deer love giving gifts and eating tasty treats. They would probably spend all day playing with their gifts! Dogs love getting gifts too and sometimes they even try to eat them. Cats prefer toys, especially mice ones. But unlike dogs, they rarely leave gifts under the tree because they don't want to waste anything. Instead, they keep what they want inside their homes and leave it behind when they go outside.
Sometimes animals forget to give gifts or leave them at home.