A Christmas stocking is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that children in the United States and some other cultures hang on Christmas Eve so that Santa Claus can fill it with small toys, candy, fruit, coins, or other small gifts when he arrives. These small items are often referred to as stocking stuffers or stocking fillers. Tradition in western culture dictates that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a piece of coal.
But how did the tradition of hanging stockings by the fireplace begin? One legend says that has it that St. Nicholas of Myra heard of a farmer who had three lovely daughters who feared they would never marry well because he didn’t have enough money to pay their dowries. Knowing the farmer would never accept the money outright, St. Nicholas dropped three bags of coins into their chimney on Christmas Eve. The young girls had each happened to have washed their stockings out and hung them by the fire to dry, so when the coins were dropped a bag landed inside each stocking. The next morning the young girls woke to find the coins and went on to marry and live happily ever after. Word of their good fortune traveled quickly and from then on, families would hang their stockings on the mantle each Christmas Eve hoping for the same fortune from St. Nicholas, who later became to be known as Santa Claus.
Originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but eventually families began creating their own special Christmas stocking adorned with decorations. One traditional practice is to reserve the stocking for five gifts that stimulate each of the five senses, such as fruit and candy for taste, a noisemaking toy for sound, small but visually appealing gifts like jewelry or books for sight, something with texture such as a soft plush toy or a silk tie, and something scented such as a bag of potpourri, a candle or cologne for scent.
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