Stuff I've Googled, what I Googled a few minutes ago, what I'm Googling now, why I'm Googling, and other fascinating information.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What's the origin of hanging Christmas stockings?

: christmas stocking history

Why: Look who is starring in my blog today!
I don't know the genesis of this (unless it's the same as the clog thing - but even then, I'm not sure how that started).

Answer: There are a few different theories. One says that the clogs came first (from Holland) and the stockings were an American extension. (But still - why the clogs?)

Another tells the tale of a poor nobleman who wants to marry off his daughters:
There was a kindly nobleman whose wife had died of an illness, leaving the nobleman and his three daughters in despair. After losing all his money in useless and bad inventions, the family had to move into a peasant's cottage, where the daughters did their own cooking, sewing, and cleaning.

When it came time for the daughters to marry, the father became even more depressed as his daughters could not marry without dowries, money, and property given to the new husbands' families.

One night, after the daughters had washed out their clothing, they hung their stockings over the fireplace to dry. That night, Saint Nicholas, knowing the despair of the father, stopped by the nobleman's house. Looking in the window Saint Nicholas saw that the family had gone to bed. He also noticed the daughters stockings. Inspiration struck Saint Nicholas. He took three small bags of gold from his pouch and threw them one by one down the chimney, and they landed in the stockings.

The next morning when the daughters awoke, they found their stockings contained enough gold for them to get married. The nobleman was able to see his three daughters marry and he lived a long and happy life.
Santa gave these poor girls money so they could pay their husbands' families to marry them. Heartwarming! Also, why did the wife die? It's not like she would have been bringing in much income in the land of dowries.

Source: The History of Christmas, Creative Homemaking,

The More You Know: Illustrator Thomas Nast drew Christmas stockings as early as 1881.
There are early mentions of stockings in 2 famous poems. A Visit from St. Nicholas (which you probably call The Night Before Christmas) was first published in 1823. As it was published anonymously, nobody is quite sure who the author is, but let's say it was Clement Moore. Either way:
The stockings were hung from the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there
Santa Claus and His Works by George P. Webster was published in 1869.

And Eliza, just think how bright her eyes will twinkle

When she looks in her stockings and finds Rip Van Winkle.

Wait what? That doesn't even make sense.

And also:

Find on Christmas a horse or a gun or a sled,

All ready for use when he gets out of bed.

But see he has worked quite enough for to-night,

He must fill all the stockings before it is light.


Then will fill up the stockings with candy and toys,

And all without making the least bit of noise.

When the labors of Christmas are over he goes

Straight home, and takes a full week of repose;

Santa is so busy. I don't know how he does it.

1 comment:

Josh said...

I am deeply, truly honored. I suppose this is in some small way what it feels like to win a Peabody Award.

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