victoria mantel

Christmas Stocking Tradition

At Old World Stoneworks, hanging stockings on the fireplace is our favorite Christmas tradition. As fireplace fanatics, we endorse any tradition that brings more attention to what we consider the best feature of any room.

christmas stocking

This little girl has taken off her stocking to hang it on the hearth. Circa 1901.

We all know the famous couplet from Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 masterpiece, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas:”

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

But have you ever stopped and wondered why we nail up festive socks? Here are the stories behind the tradition:

A poor man and his three daughters

Many sources indicate that the stocking tradition arose from Saint Nicholas’ compassion for a poor widower and his three daughters. The father was too impoverished to provide dowries for his girls, so he worried they would never marry. Saint Nick knew the father was too proud to take charity. So, one night he snuck down the chimney and filled the girls’ stockings – which were drying by the fire – with gold coins. The overjoyed girls could then marry. Given, this story seems a little, uh, dated. But if you focus on Saint Nick’s compassion, it’s still heartwarming.

The clog theory

The Dutch tell a more prosaic story. Sixteenth century Dutch kids left straw-filled clogs by the hearth so Santa’s (or Sinterclass, if you’re Dutch) reindeer could have a snack. And, of course, they left cookies for Santa, but not in their clogs. In exchange, Sinterclass brought the children treats. Over time, the clogs evolved into stockings.

Santa Claus

Santa, preparing for his descent

Oranges and stockings

Oranges are popular stocking stuffers. The usual rationale is that before global shipping and refrigeration, an orange was a rare treat in winter. But going back to the Saint Nick and the widower story, some versions have Saint Nick leaving the girls golden balls, rather than coins. Since gold balls are hard to come by, oranges were a delicious and affordable substitute.

Personal style

Nowadays, families like to show their personal style in their Christmas stockings. A vast array of colors, materials and designs are on the market, from glam velvet to homey crocheting and cross-stitching. Usually the owner’s name is embroidered on the stocking. Many families use the same Christmas stockings for decades. Just taking the treasured stockings out of storage evokes that Christmas feeling.

stockings on fireplace

Personalized stockings hung on the fireplace

Of course, Christmas traditions about the fireplace also remind us why it’s important to keep our chimneys clean. You don’t want Santa messing up his nice red and white suit, do you? Browse our blog for tips on fireplace maintenance, so your hearth is Santa-worthy.

If you want to spiff up your fireplace, give us a call.