Kristine has a B.A. in Journalism from Penn State University and an M.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Michigan.
The History of Christmas Stocking
Stockings hanging in front of a fireplace are one of the most popular symbols of Christmas. This holiday tradition began with legends attributed to a famous saint who later became known as "Jolly Old St. Nick."
The Nobleman and His Daughters
The custom of hanging Christmas stockings is based on legends that have been handed down for generations. According to the article "Why Do We Hang Stockings for Christmas" on Livescience.com, the tradition originated with a story about a nobleman with three daughters.
The man, living in an area that is now modern-day Turkey, had lost his wife to a long illness. He was both heartbroken and financially ruined because of several bad investments. Because he could not provide a dowry for his daughters to marry, he feared what would become of them. Many dowerless women were forced into prostitution during this time.
According to the legend, St. Nicholas, who was then the Bishop of Myra, heard of the family's plight. He secretly threw bags of gold down the family's chimney to use for the girls' dowries. According to Livescience.com, legend has it that the final bag fell into a stocking hanging on the fireplace mantle to dry.
Sinterklaas and His Donkey
Another story is based on the Dutch custom of leaving shoes outside on December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas. According to the Good Housekeeping article "Why Do We Hang Christmas Stockings?" children would fill their shoes with hay for the saint's donkey. "Sinterklaas" would replace the hay with gold coins.
When the Dutch came to America, they brought this tradition with them. Sinterklaas eventually became "Santa Claus," and the legends merged to become stockings hanging by the fireplace; according to the article, "The tradition of hanging Christmas stockings was introduced by St. Nicholas, the patron of children" on Thevintagenews.com.
Not Just for Fireplaces
Hanging stockings by the fireplace are one of the most popular Christmas customs. It is not the only option, however. In homes with no fireplace, stockings may be hung on doorknobs, bedposts, windowsills, or even on a wall, according to Thevintangenews.com.
Children need not worry. Wherever they hang their stockings on Christmas Eve—or place their shoes outside the door—Santa is bound to find them.
A basic stocking can be made out of felt and decorated with various craft materials.
- Stocking template http://www.northpole.com/craftcottage/basic-felt-stocking
- 0.5 yard felt
- 5/8" wide ribbon, 10" long
- Sewing machine
- Print the template and cut out the pieces. To assemble the stocking template, line up the dashed lines, overlap the shaded tabs, and tape pieces together.
- If needed, press felt with a cool iron to remove any wrinkles. Then place the stocking pattern on the felt. Use the marker to trace two stocking shapes, then cut them out. Note: Make sure you cut inside the marker line, so you don't leave any stray marks on the stocking pieces.
- Lay one stocking piece on your work surface. Fold the ribbon in half and place it near the upper left corner of the stocking. The ends of the ribbon should extend past the left side of the stocking. The loop should extend above the top of the stocking. Place the other stocking piece on top and pin the pieces together.
- Leaving the top of the stocking open, sew the pieces together with your sewing machine, leaving a 0.25" seam allowance (an easy way to get a 0.25" seam allowance is to align the edge of the felt with the presser foot). Make sure to back tack at the beginning to reinforce the stitch, and then continue sewing.
- Sew around the stocking, removing pins as you go. When you reach the end, back tack once again to lock the thread in place. Note: When you sew over the ribbon, back tack over it and then sew forward again to reinforce it for hanging.
- Remove any remaining pins, then turn the stocking right side out. Press around the seam with a cool iron. Embellish your stocking with pompoms, ribbons, buttons, felt appliqués, glitter, fabric paint, or any other décor you like.
Ibraheem, Hanna (2016, November 24). “Why Do We Hang Christmas Stockings?” Good Housekeeping UK. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/christmas/a565304/why-do-we-hang-christmas-stockings/
Origjanska, Magda (2017, December 29). “The tradition of hanging Christmas stockings was introduced by St. Nicholas, the patron of children”. The Vintage News. https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/12/29/christmas-stockings/
Remy, Melina (2010, December 23). “Why Do We Hang Stockings for Christmas?” Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/32906-hang-stockings-for-christmas.html
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Kristine Sorchilla Moore