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Why Do We Hang Christmas Stockings by the Fireplace?



Images of a jolly Santa filling stockings with treats are common at Christmas time. But how did the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings begin? 

The history of the Christmas stocking, and of Santa himself, dates to the early days of Christianity.  

The real Nicholas was born into a wealthy family in what is now Turkey. He eventually became a bishop who devoted his life to serving the poor and suffering. Bishop Nicholas was known for his generosity and his love of children.

The Christmas stocking tradition is based on tales told about his life and deeds.

St. Nicholas the Gift-Giver

It is said St. Nicholas unintentionally began the tradition of filling stockings when he secretly provided dowries for three poor sisters. Some accounts say he threw bags of gold through an open window; others say he dropped the money down the chimney. Depending on the version, his gifts landed in shoes or stockings left by the fire to dry. 

These St. Nicholas stories led to the practice of hanging Christmas stockings by the chimney. In a similar Dutch tradition, children set out their wooden shoes for St. Nicholas to fill with candy and treats. Sometimes, they leave carrots or hay for his horse. 

Early Dutch immigrants brought their Christmas traditions to America, along with their nickname for St. Nicholas - Sinterklass.

As the popularity of “Santa Claus” grew, storytellers wove elements from the life of the original St. Nicholas into Christmas lore, giving us the Christmas stocking traditions we continue to enjoy today.

What Traditionally Goes in a Christmas Stocking?

As with many Christmas customs, what goes in a Christmas stocking has changed with the times. Children of the past found nuts, sweets and the occasional orange in their stockings on Christmas morning. If they were very lucky, Santa may have dropped in a shiny penny or two.

Stockings frequently contain practical items not normally considered gifts. However, even a new toothbrush or pair of socks is better than the dreaded lump of coal (link to What does it mean to get a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking?) reserved for bad boys and girls.

Of course, candy has always been a popular stocking stuffer. Who can resist a candy cane at Christmas? In addition to wrapped candy bars and chocolate Christmas novelties, stockings today also may hold packs of gum or packages of breath mints.

And since a penny doesn’t buy much, these days you’re more likely to find a check from Grandma or a gift card in your stocking.

Or jewelry. Nearly one in five engagements occur in the month of December.

Tools, crayons, lip balm, toy cars, hair clips – today, stocking stuffer ideas are limited only by your creativity.

Cherished Tradition

One thing, however, remains the same. While the contents of our Christmas stockings have changed through the years, diving into a bulging stocking continues to be one of the sweeter Christmas joys. offers a wide selection of Christmas stockings and stocking holders. You’re also welcome to visit our Gift Shop for unique Christmas stocking stuffer ideas.