Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Stocking


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.

11 comments:

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Paty, nice blog. I do some research on St. Nicholas and you told the 'nice' story about the sisters. I found some stories that said the dad was going to sell them into prostitution, and St. Nick gave them a dowry. It's why he's the patron saint of children.

Thanks for the history on one of our traditions.

Anna Kathryn

Celia Yeary said...

Perfect Christmas post, Paty. I've heard these tales of the stocking, to one degree or another. It's notable that in all cases, the children put out something and received a gift in exchange. It's also interesting how children--then and now--are threatened in a way, or cajoled to be good or Santa won't bring a gift--he'll leave a chunk of coal, sticks, or nothing. "You better watch out, you better not cry....he's making a list and checking it twice, to find out who's been naughty or nice." Santa asks the children on his lap: "Have you been a good little boy...or girl?"
I just now read about a Depression Era Christmas.It seems that the one gift most received was one orange in a stocking. And they were thrilled! Celia

Susan Macatee said...

Great post, Paty! It's so interesting to see how all of our present day Christmas traditions came to be.

Tanya Hanson said...

Wonderful post, Paty. As a kid I always worried because we didn't have a fireplace!

I think the Santa Claus somehow comes from Sinterklaas in turn coming from St. Nicholas?

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Paty Jager said...

Anna Kathryn, I think there is always a seamy story for for every good one. All the sites I visited had the father being nice. It would be interesting to read the other one.

Paty Jager said...

Celia,
It is amazing how in year's past children were excited by a nickel or an orange in their stocking.

All information about Christmas is fun to learn. And you're also right about how children are threatened with being nice. LOL

Paty Jager said...

Thanks for stopping by Susan!

Paty Jager said...

HI Tanya,

Yes, the Sinterklass came from Saint Nicholas. I didn't put all that info in there. I figured if people wanted to go tot he one Dutch site and read all the info, they could.

The Dutch also say Sinterklass lives in Spain, not the North Pole.

Cheryl said...

Paty,
I really enjoyed this post about Christmas Stockings. I love to learn things about holidays that I didn't know. VERY interesting!
Cheryl

Cheryl said...

Oops, Paty, I didn't mean to come in early with my post. I was trying to save it and I think I did something wrong--I'm sorry! I don't know what I'm doing with the blogging stuff--just still trying to get the hang of it.
Cheryl

Lauri said...

I love reading posts like this! I really enjoy learning how traditions started. Thanks Paty!