For my post today we are going to explore the Christmas tradition of stockings and/or shoes. This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs' Christmas in Different Lands Series. Growing up stockings were always a big thing. One of my sisters loves stocking gifts. We all would run down the stairs and get our stockings and start opening the gifts. As we got older it changed to us taking turns opening one stocking gift at a time so everyone could see it. As we got older still (adults) we started buying a few stocking gifts for everyone. As a child I always thought my stocking was not as exciting as the rest of my families. I had a hand knitted one that was going to be a sock for my father, but was too big. Everyone else had felt ones that had fun decorations and their names on them. My mother tried out all sorts of things on her sewing machine when making them before my birth. My sisters always tried to tell me my plain one was better because it stretched, but I didn't buy it. When we were adults my mother hand knitted new ones for all of us that are beautiful. She still has them at her house in case any of us are there for Christmas morning (my family usually is not but everyone else often is). My family still has the stocking tradition. Hazel is always very excited to hang our stockings and actually has made, bought and found stockings for Ducky and some of her dolls. (I recently shared one that I made for her doll as well.)
We have always hung our stockings on the mantle except when my parents lived in a condo that did not have a fireplace. Then the stockings were arranged on an armchair. Since they have always played such an important role in my Christmas morning I wondered how other countries used them.
HistoryThe history of stockings has many legends though no one knows for sure. The most common and accepted is the legend of St. Nicholas. It is said there was a recently widowed father living in town that had three beautiful daughters and was struggling to make ends meet. The father worried about marrying off his daughters since he did not have the money for their dowries. It is said he slid down their chimney during the night and put gold coins in the girls' stockings that were hanging by the fire to dry. (Source)
Special Christmas stockings came from a German legend. A man named Odin has a flying horse named Sleipnir. The kids would fill boots with straw, sugar or carrots for Sleipnir on Christmas Eve and Odin would fill them with gifts and treats for the children. This tradition was eventually changed to stockings instead of boots and spread. (Source)
The AmericasIn the United States Christians hang stockings for Santa to fill on Christmas Eve. Often radio stations will have Santa sighting reports as well. Canada also has stockings. Some open only their stocking gifts on Christmas Eve while others open all their gifts Christmas Eve. (Source) In Mexico the kids put out shoes for the Three Kings or Magi to fill on el Dia de Los Reyes (January 6th, Epiphany). Some kids also have Santa Claus visit on Christmas Eve in Mexico and some have visits from both! (Source) Some children in Brazil hang socks near a window. Papai Noel will exchange the socks for a present. (Source) In Chile Viejito Pascuero leaves gifts for good children on Christmas Eve in their stockings and under the tree. (Source) In Haiti on Christmas Eve, children put straw in their newly cleaned shoes and then put the shoes under the tree on the porch. They hope Tonton Nwèl will replace the straw with presents. (Source)
EuropeIn Croatia children clean their shoes or boots and leave them in a window on St. Nicholas Eve (December 5). If they have been good St. Nicholas will leave them chocolates and small gifts and if they have been naughty Krampus will leave them golden twigs to remind them to be good the next year. (Source) In Finland they believe Santa Claus or Father Christmas lives in the Northern part so he delivers the gifts personally to them. If for some reason he does not catch you awake or home he will leave them under the tree. Therefore they do not have stockings. (Source) In Germany like much of Europe the children leave out shoes for St. Nicholas on December 5th. (Source) In the Netherlands children leave their shoes for Sinterklaas by the fireplace or on a windowsill. Zwarte Piet, Sinterklaas travel companion will climb down the chimney or through a window to leave gifts for the children. Naughty children may be taken by Zwarte Piet to go live in Spain for a year. The Dutch believe Sinterklaas lives in Spain. Some families tell children they make weekly visits so their shoes are left out one day a week until December 5th. (Source) In Iceland Christmas Eve is preceded by thirteen days of Father Christmases. A mean troll woman named Gryla has thirteen sons who are the different Father Christmases. Gryla likes to eat naughty children so this is the fear put into the kids. Each Father Christmas however comes a different night an leaves a gift in a shoe left by a window. (Source: Iceland by Jonathan Wilcox and Zawiah Abdul Latif: Marshall Cavendish International 2007.) In Italy children hang their stockings for Epiphany. They believe Befana brings them gifts. (Source) In Portugal Pai Natal (Father Christmas) is believed to leave presents for children on Christmas Eve in shoes near the fireplace or under the tree. (Source) In Slovakia children leave their shoes out for sv. Mikulas on December 5th. On Christmas gifts are brought to the children by Baby Jesus. It is common to have the children leave the room and Baby Jesus brings the gifts and when a bell is rung the children rush back in to see Baby Jesus and the gifts. They always just miss Baby Jesus. (Source) In Spain the children put out their shoes for the Magi to bring gifts on Epiphany. They write their letters to the Kings on Boxing Day (December 26). (Source) In the United Kingdom hanging stockings became popular during Queen Victoria's reign. She married German Prince Albert who brought many of the German Christmas traditions with him. (Source: Cultural Traditions in the United Kingdom by Lynn Peppas: Crabtree Publishing Company 2014.)
AsiaThe Philippines also do not have stockings. Although some of the children believe in Santa Claus and/or have seen pictures of him, it is their grandparents (Lolo and Lola) that give them gifts. (Source: Christmas in the Philippines by Cheryl L. Enderlein, Hilltop Books 1998.) In Vietnam children leave their shoes outside their door for Santa Claus to fill on Christmas Eve. In China the children hang muslin stockings in hopes that Dun Che Lao Ren will fill them up. (Source)
Africa and Australia
In South Africa many children leave out a stocking on Christmas Eve for Sinterklaas or Santa Claus. (Source) In Australia some families hang stockings. After reading a bit about it I asked my friend, Kelly from Happy Whimsical Hearts. Her family does not hang stockings but she knows some that do. Many do not have fireplaces so they hang their stockings on walls or on their trees and others hang them from their bedposts. Kelly has also seen some families just leave the stockings under the tree.
So stockings are hung and shoes are placed at different times of December and January depending on where in the world the child is. Do you hang a stocking or put out shoes? I would love to hear about it.