If you’re a fan of the classic holiday poem “The Night Before Christmas,” you may have wondered why anyone bothers to hang stockings by the chimney – or anywhere else in the house. their – during the holidays.
The answer lies in one holiday staple: gifts.
According to Bruce Forbes, professor emeritus of religious studies, the legend of a storehouse full of goodies dates back to the Bishop of Myra, the model for today’s Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus. at Morningside University and author of “Christmas: A Candid History. “
“Saint Nicholas, who served as Bishop of Myra … is said to be the only child of a wealthy family,” who devoted himself before his death, Forbes said.
ONE 15th century Italian altar illustration of a bishop throwing golden balls through the window to help an impoverished father provide dowries for his three daughters, destined to be slaves for life.
According to Forbes.
“One of the more distant legends is that three daughters were washing their stockings, and they hung them on the fireplace to dry.”
According to Forbes, the bishop dropped golden gifts down the chimney on three different occasions.
“And then the father was so grateful that he lied because he wanted to thank this anonymous donor, and then came across St. Nicholas as he was carrying the third bag and wanted to tell everyone. And St. Nicholas said, “No, you can’t tell them. All credit goes to God,'” Forbes said. “What we’re doing is taking the whole Santa story and reading it backwards as St. Nicholas.”
In 1954, William Porter Kelly wrote in “The Story of the ‘Visit from St. Nicholas'” that from this “mythical incident, the custom grew for older family members to secretly place gifts in shoes, socks, or some kind of container for the children, who found them in the morning.” The next day, quite willingly give St. Nicholas. credit.”
But the Christmas tradition of stuffed stockings, whether hung over a roaring fire, from a parapet or anywhere else, was popularized by the 1823 poem “A Narrative of the Visit of Saint Nicholas ,” later known as “Christmas Eve. , ” according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Emily Spivack writes for Smithsonian Magazine how filling stock with an orange – a 19th-century Christmas tradition – could be a tribute to old St. Nick. Tropical fruits represent golden gifts from the saints, and oranges were a rare treat in the 1800s.
“Oranges have become a luxury for modest-sized families who give them as a gift to their children,” says journalist Dominique Foufelle in “The Little Book of Christmas.”
The association between gifts and socks is why this tradition persists to this day, says Forbes.
“One of the things that has become most important to many of us is presents. And in a sense, you have two means of delivering presents in the Christmas tradition. One is the present in the stockings and the other at the base. Christmas tree,” said Forbes.
Drop-off is also one of many traditions that reflect a cultural rather than religious holiday.
“Culturally Christmas is really a mid-winter festival in the middle of winter when things get worse,” says Forbes. “Last year… there was a lot of talk about people arranging their Christmas decorations early because in the midst of COVID, everyone wanted to lift their spirits somehow.
“And there’s a whole theme of generosity, that you don’t have to be religious to be,” he added. “So I think the reason you have these non-religious things is that we have a cultural Christmas, we have a Christian Christmas. And they both exist at the same time. Some of us do one, some of us do the other. And a lot of us do both.”
Contact Chelsey Cox on Twitter @therealco.