Christmas time in the West is filled with many traditions that make this festive season full of sentiment. This includes exchanging Christmas gifts and Christmas hampers as the Christmas eve starts. Some also send their loved ones special homemade Christmas gift baskets and items. For kids, parents are putting their Christmas gifts to the Christmas stockings. Many people treasure Christmas Eve, when they hang up their stocking for Santa to fill. The contents depend on how the person has behaved during the year.
What is Christmas Stocking?
A Christmas stocking is an empty bag made in the shape of a big sock. This can either be handmade or bought in a store. The home-made stockings have the names of each family member stitched on them. Children look forward to Christmas Eve to hang their socks and some try to stay awake to see them being filled to no avail. The stockings are usually filled with small gifts such as candy, fruits, toys, money and games. If the child has been naughty, a lump of coal is put into the stocking. These days it is rare to find coal in a child’s stocking.
The Tradition of Christmas Stocking
Tales of old say that the tradition of stockings started way back in 280 A.D. in Patara, Lycia, Asia Minor. There lived, in Patara, a kind and generous noble man (called Nicholas) who served his community as a priest. He lived with his wealthy parents in Patara until they died in an epidemic. As a young lad he was a devoted follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Soon after the demise of his parents, Nicholas, became a Christian priest and used his wealth to help those who were suffering, sick, poor, in need or basically disadvantaged as well as sailor and ships. He was a highly respected and dedicated servant of God throughout his life. While he was still young, he was made the Bishop of Myra.
Saint Nicholas and the Christmas
Bishop Nicholas was renowned, far and wide, for his generous and kind nature especially toward children. He never had any children of his own as he did not enter into the institution of marriage. Nicholas preferred his assisting being anonymous, thus did his work in the dead of the night. Children were told to eat and sleep early so that their benefactor would come. He was fondly known as the patron saint of the children and sailors. He was, eventually, called Saint Nicholas. Over time the title Saint was shortened to ‘Santa’ and Nicholas to ‘Claus’, hence Santa Claus.
If a biography were to be written about the life of Saint Nicholas, the stories would fill several books. One of the more popular tales is about a poor peasant who lived in Patara with his wife and three daughters. One day this man’s wife became sick and died leaving him with three young girls. The man did his best to raise his daughters to be respectable women within his humble home. The girls did their best to pick up from where their mother left off when she died. They learned to manage all the duties in the home while their father nursed a broken heart.
In that age, the father of a young woman had to pay a bride price to the groom before she got married. This peasant sank deeper into depression when his eldest girl became eligible to marry. He could not source a way of getting the dowry as he did not want his daughter to die a spinster. Saint Nicholas got wind of the peasant’s dilemma and purposed to help him. The girls would wash their socks and hang them near the fire to dry over night.
When the family had gone to sleep, Saint Nicholas crept to the window near the stockings and put a bag of gold in the nearest stocking and melted into the night. In the morning, the humble home was filled with awe, wonder, and joy when the gold was discovered. The astounded peasant realized that the gold was the amount needed for the dowry for his eldest girl when she wedded a gentleman.
A little while later, Saint Nicholas, repeated his gesture in the night and the second daughter got married. The peasant thought that this was too good to be happening to him and he had t o find out who was blessing them. He stayed up and hid as he waited to see who would turn up.
Eventually, the Saint came to the cottage and as he put the little sack of gold in the stocking the peasant recognized the Bishop and fell at his feet sincerely expressing his deep, heart-felt gratitude and joy. The Bishop blessed him and he lived, in joy, to a ripe old age having seen all his daughters married to good men. The children, from that time on, would hang the stockings they wore. Eventually, home-made or ready-made store bought Christmas stockings replaced the regularly worn stockings.