Hanging and filling your Christmas stockings
The tradition of hanging Christmas stockings has many possible roots. One originates in Holland during the 16th century. On Christmas Eve, Dutch children would leave clogs filled with hay beside the fireplace. The hay was for Santa's reindeer. In exchange for the hay, Santa would fill the clogs with treats. These treats included small toys, candy, fruit and coins.
In Italy, children also left out shoes, but it was for La Bufana, an ageless wanderer (or "good witch" as is often told). When the Three Wise Men were on their way to Bethlehem for Jesus' birth, they asked villagers to join them on their journey. La Bufana refused and in doing so missed the birth of Jesus. It was a decision she later regretted. From that day forward, every Epiphany Eve (January 5th) La Bufana wanders from house to house in search of the Christ Child, leaving small gifts in the children's shoes.
The Turkish tradition of hanging stockings begins with three sisters. Although each sister was sweet and kind, the family was poor and there was no dowry for them to marry. One day St. Nicholas was passing through the village when he overheard the villagers discussing the sisters' plight. That night, he snuck to the family's home and dropped three bags of gold down the chimney. The sisters had hung their recently laundered stockings by the chimney to dry. The bags of gold fell into the stockings, with a bag for each sister. They now had a generous dowry and soon each wed. Word of Saint Nicholas' generosity spread and others began hanging stockings by the chimney in hopes of receiving gifts of their own.
North American Lore
In North America hanging stockings is linked to the poem "The Night before Christmas" (by Clement Clark Moore). Its famous line revived the interest in Christmas stockings: "The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there." Eventually shoes and stockings gave way to the Christmas stocking you see today.After time, these stories blended into one, and the modern tradition of hanging stockings was born. It's a custom long held by many families and emptying stockings on Christmas morning is a treasured tradition for most.