Why do we hang stockings at Christmas? The origin of the tradition comes from a folkloric story. The Cliff Notes version goes like this:
A kindly Saint Nicholas learned of a penniless widower with three daughters and no dowry for them. St. Nick came to the widower’s house and filled his three daughters’ stockings, hanging on the fireplace to dry, with gold coins.
Different versions, each with its own twist, have continued to fuel Christmas decorating for hundreds of years. You can read more details here.
Our family’s Christmas stocking tradition started with my Irish grandmother, who made stockings for each of her grandchildren.
Every Christmas morning we’d go over to her house to find Santa had left our stockings. We never questioned why there and not at our house. Instead, on Christmas morning we piled in the car with our mother and went to her house to find our stockings stuffed with small gifts like jewelry or nail clippers, an orange, an apple, Hersey kisses, pecans, almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.
The orange supposedly represented the gold coins the three impoverished girls found. The nuts, I think, were merely filler. I never ate them as a child.
That ritual continued until I got married. Then Grandmother made a stocking for my husband soon to be followed by three more for our children.
We always hung the stockings and opened them on Christmas morning along with “Santa” gifts from under the tree. Because we never lived nearby, we never got to continue the stockings at grandmother’s house tradition.
Time passed and our children married and had children. We’d lost Grandmother so making Christmas stockings fell to me.
I made four stockings for children’s spouses and twelve grandchildren. Plus, a couple for nieces and nephews.
Our grandchildren started getting married which meant more stockings to make for spouses and three great-grandchildren. I’ve made seventeen!
Grandmother would never make stockings for pets. I couldn’t say no and have stockings for granddogs and grandbunnies.
She’d shortened long names like Stephanie Jean, to the initials S.J., which troubled my youngest all her life. Remembering how she felt, I don’t shorten names on stocking instead I substitute nicknames like Alex for Alexander and Theo for Theodore. I’m hoping the guys won’t mind when they’re older.
Making Christmas stockings is a labor of love, a family tradition, and this Nana’s Christmas legacy.