Tuesday, December 16, 2008
When I came up with the idea of writing about the origin of the Christmas stocking I figured it originated in Europe and was brought over by immigrants, I just didn't realize how close to my family it would fall.
There are two versions of how the Christmas stocking came to be. One is that a kind nobleman had lost his wife and was trying to raise three daughters. He'd lost all his money in bad investments and it was time to marry off his daughters. Only he didn't have money for dowries. On Christmas Eve the three daughters washed out their stockings as usual and hung them by the fire to dry. Saint Nicholas peered through the window and spied the stockings. He placed bags of gold in the garments and in the morning the daughters found enough money in their stockings to marry.
The version I like because it was told to me by my mother-in-law, who is Dutch, is the tradition started in 16th century Holland. The children put straw in their clogs(wooden shoes)for the reindeer. Their shoes sat by the fireplace and treats were left for "Sinterklass" also. When Sinterklass found the treats, he left presents for the children. There is also the tale of Black Piet. He is Sinterklass's helper. He is covered in coal dust and if the children have been bad during the year, he leaves them a chunk of coal. My mother-in-law said a friend or relative dressed every year as Black Piet and scared the children to keep them from being bad.
In Holland the present exchange actually happens on December 5th. If you want to learn more about the Dutch tradition, you can go to this site, and it also states that the Dutch Settlers brought the notion of Saint Nicholas to New Amsterdam, USA.