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Christmas Stockings: History and Ideas

Updated on August 1, 2012
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

What would Christmas Day be like without Christmas Stockings filled with treats? If you have wondered about Christmas stockings history and ideas for both using them and filling them you are not alone. Stockings are a beloved tradition in almost every home that celebrates Christmas but no one really knows how the tradition started.

Each year it seems there are more designs to choose from, more suggestions for decoration, and more ways to fill stockings than ever before.

Christmas stockings hung by the fireplace are a centuries old tradition.
Christmas stockings hung by the fireplace are a centuries old tradition. | Source

The History of Christmas Stockings

Although there are several legends about the tradition of hanging a Christmas stocking, no one really knows for sure how it began.

Historians believe that it was brought to the United States by the Dutch in Colonial times. It was a tradition for Dutch children to leave their shoes out filled with straw for the reindeer as well as leaving a treat for Santa by the hearth. In turn Santa would leave the children small gifts in their shoes. This was done on Saint Nicholas Day, December 6.

But why would the Dutch children to that?

It seems that the legend of St. Nicholas is involved. You see, once there was a nobleman who had fallen on hard times. He had three daughters of marriageable age but he did not have money for their dowries. Without a dowry there was no way that they could ever get married. St. Nicholas heard of their plight and knew that the nobleman would never consent to taking charity from him. He decided to drop a bag of coins for each daughter down the chimney in the middle of the night and the bags landed in the stockings that the girls had hung by the fire to dry.

Clement Moore added to the magic with his poem, The Night before Christmas, published in 1823. He wrote the fantasy for his own children and it was published in the Troy Sentinel. The poem recounts one father's discovery of St. Nicholas on Christmas Eve and includes references to the stockings being "hung by the chimney with care…"

Today, almost everyone who celebrates Christmas adds a stocking to the fireplace in the hope that Santa will fill it with something wonderful.


Christmas Stockings: Ideas for Stocking Stuffers

Although candy and small toys are traditionally added to stockings there are many more items that can be fun to give. No one is too old or sophisticated to be delighted by this holiday tradition.

An easy way to create a stocking is to add themed gifts. Here are some ideas to get you started:

For the Cook

  • Whisk
  • Measuring spoons
  • Sprinkles
  • Edible gold leaf
  • Vanilla beans
  • Gadgets
  • Hot pads
  • Black truffle oil
  • Smoked paprika
  • Smoked salt
  • Unusual ingredients
  • Gift certificates to favorite cooking stores
  • Magazines like Bon Appetit or Saveur

For the Gardener

  • Seed packets
  • Trowel
  • Gift certificates to garden centers
  • Magazines like Organic Gardening or Birds and Blooms

For the Coffee Aficionado

  • Coffee beans
  • Antique coffee mug
  • Gift certificate to Starbucks or other coffee shop
  • Chocolate stirring spoons
  • Flavoring syrups
  • A travel mug

For the Quilter

  • Fat quarters
  • Quilting magazines
  • Templates
  • Notions
  • Needles
  • Gift certificate to a favorite fabric store

For the Handyman

  • Screwdriver or other small tools
  • Gift certificate to a home improvement store
  • Hand cleaner with pumice
  • New drill bits

For Almost Anyone

  • Candy from the decade they grew up in. You can find this at websites like Nostalgic Candy
  • Gift certificates
  • Subscription to a favorite magazine
  • Move tickets
  • Tickets to other events

How to Make Beautiful Homemade Christmas Stockings

Stocking Stuffers for Children

Stocking stuffers for children can be difficult to choose if you want to do something a little different form candy and cheap toys that break before the day is over. Here are some other possibilities to consider:

  • Add a muffin or something for breakfast. This way your child will have something healthy to munch on rather than going straight for candy.
  • Tickets to a movie
  • Homemade coupons for special privileges like staying up past bedtime, a trip to the zoo, or a special time with mom or dad.
  • Gift certificates to a favorite store
  • Crayons, colored pencils, other art supplies

As you can see there are many possibilities when it comes to creating the perfect stocking for adults and children alike.

Where to Buy Stockings

You can buy Christmas stockings almost anywhere. From a vintage look to stockings that are themed there is something for everyone.

Merry Stockings 

Pottery Barn 

Needlepoint Stockings

Christmas Place 

 Make Your Own

Another type of stocking to consider is a gift in itself, homemade stockings. There are many kits for cross stitch, quilted, felt stockings, embroidered stockings and more. Taking the time to make a special stocking for someone is a great gift and will be a treasured keepsake for years to come.


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    • kephrira profile image

      kephrira 7 years ago from Birmingham

      Interesting bit about the history.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      One of my happiest Christmas memories from childhood is placing an empty stocking at the foot of my bed every Christmas Eve. Magically, the stocking was always filled with gifts the next morning! Thanks for an enjoyable hub.

    • True Blue Tips profile image

      True Blue Tips 7 years ago

      Thanks for a great hub. I still have my Christmas stocking that I got when I was around five. It is handmade and was given to me by my Grandma. We would get a candy cane, chocolate coins and a Japanese orange as well as some small toys. It was always the first thing we opened on Christmas morning!

    • suzanmitchel profile image

      suzanmitchel 7 years ago from New York

      Wow, what an amazing hub! You are very creative in making your own stockings, I love your ideas. :)

    • samsons1 profile image

      Sam 7 years ago from Tennessee

      up & beautiful! well written, enjoyable and informative. Good ideas...

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 7 years ago from Wales

      Thanjks for all these tips. I'm sure there is something here for everyone.

      Take care Marye.

    • brandrocker profile image

      brandrocker 7 years ago

      Beautiful suggestions! Thanks!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for the lovely story and tips.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Great bit of history and I love the stocking stuffer ideas. Rated up and useful.

    • carrie450 profile image

      carrie450 7 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      Wonderful tips for stocking stuffers, some I hadn't thought of. Good hub!