Classic Christmas stockings hanging on the mantel

Classic Christmas stockings hanging on the mantel

The custom of hanging Christmas stockings on the fireplace mantel Christmas Eve night originated with the real St. Nicholas, a Catholic bishop from the ancient Mediterranean city of Myra. Hearing of a destitute family in need of dowry money for their daughters’ marriages, Nicholas threw gold coins through the window of their humble dwelling. As the story grew into legend, the coins were said to have landed in the stockings of the family, which were hanging by the fire to dry.

The Christmas stocking tradition was given a tremendous boost through the poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas,” by Clement Moore in 1822…better known as “The Night Before Christmas.” Long before Christmas became a windfall for savvy entrepreneurs, with their promotion of gifts, tinsel, fancy paper and ribbons, the Christmas stocking was the high point of delight in children’s awakening on Christmas morning to find what St. Nick had left for them.

This current collection by Laura Orsini is a modern version of an old custom. The intention here is to create heirlooms and traditions that can be passed on through time, with stockings to match every taste and household decor.

To this day, in anticipation of a visit from old St. Nicholas, we still find hanging legwear on the mantel at Christmas Eve…or, as in the case of those homes without fireplaces, on the bookcase or entertainment center. Children and adults alike awake to find their stockings, or socks, as they are also called, filled with a variety of goodies: nuts, fruit, candies, and handmade trinkets.

Customs From Other Countries

  • In some countries, it’s not stockings, but shoes . . . such as French children who place their shoes by the fireplace, a tradition dating back to when children wore wooden peasant shoes.
  • In Holland, children fill their shoes with hay and a carrot for the horse of Sintirklass.
  • Hungarian children shine their shoes before putting them near the door or a window sill.
  • Italian children leave their shoes out the night before the Epiphany, January 5, for La Befana, the good witch.
  • And in Puerto Rico, children put greens and flowers in small boxes, which they place under their beds for the Three Kings’ camels.

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