Issue 12-14-14 Website - page 11

The StockingsWereHung By The ChimneyWithCare
When I was in California two
weeks ago, I told my son, since
hewas on his way toChina and
daysbeforeChristmas, that I’dgo
shopping forChristmasstockings
for the three kids. I knew he just
wouldn’t have time.
The tradition of Christmas
stockings has always been im-
portant inmy family. As a kid, I
wouldhang a sockon the corner
of the bed and in themorning it
wouldbe replacedwith aChrist-
mas stocking filled with little
presents and candy– and always
an orange in the toe. Therewere
plenty ofwalnuts, and chocolate
candywrapped infoil,andat least
one candy cane. I remember the
gold foilwrappedchocolatecoins
ina littlegoldnetbag. Therewas
Wedidn’t haveafireplace, so I
figured that hanging the stocking
on thebedpostwas thenext best
thing. What I learned as I got
older,my father decided itwas a
good“stall tactic.” Iwouldwake
up at 4 in themorning andwant
togodownstairs toopenpresents.
“Lynne, openyour stockingfirst,
and then go back to sleep for a
little while and then you can go
downstairs.”Somy childrenhad
stockings on the bedpost for the
earlyyears.Eventually thestock-
ings were on the fireplace, but
the stockings had to be opened
first, before the presents under
the tree.
I remember filling my father-
in-lawsstocking, always tookon
acertainchallenge. Iwouldmake
avisit toSibley’sgrocerysection
anchovies, rain-deer meat balls,
and small bottles of liqueurs. I
canstillseeFredopening the little
wrappedgifts,and laughingwhen
he discovered what I had found
that year to put in his stocking.
After my daughter was married,
I searched the candy stores for
obscurestuff formyson-in-law’s
stocking. There is some pretty
grosscandyout there. Oneyear I
wrapped them up.
Inevergave the storyof stock-
ings much thought, until I was
preparing for theWolcott Street
students’ visit to a “Victorian
tradition of Christmas stockings
is mentioned in the 1822 poem,
“AVisit fromSt.Nicholas”which
we know as the “Night Before
Christmas.” “Thestockingswere
hung by the chimney with care,
in hope that St. Nicholas soon
would be there.” And later in
thepoem, “He spokenot aword,
but went straight to his work,
Andfilled all the stockings; then
turnedwith a jerk ...”
It seems that thestocking tradi-
tion traces back toEuropewhere
a poor man had three beautiful
daughters. Hedespaired for their
future, because he did not have
dowries for thegirls. St.Nicholas
knew of the poor man’s plight,
and knew that the man would
not accept charity. So one night,
when thewashwashangingnear
the fireplace, St. Nicholas threw
three bags of gold coins in the
window into thedryingstockings.
(Another story tells that he
threw the coins down the chim-
ney.) In the morning, the gold
coins were discovered, and the
girls had dowries. They all mar-
ried and livedhappily ever after.
Sometimes, in the story, thegold
coinsweregoldballs instead, and
the traditionof thestockingfilled
with an orange can be traced to
that story.
There isalsosomecredibility to
stories thatchildren inFranceand
the Netherlands, filled wooden
shoes with hay and carrots for
Santa’s reindeer. After St. Nich-
olas’ visit, the hay and carrots
were gone and were replaced
withcandyand small toys for the
children. The shoes, were later
replacedwith stockings.
Mymother’s family rarelyhad
a Christmas tree, having grown
up during the Depression, but
she did remember receiving an
orange in a stocking.As she told
me, the orange was so precious
because it was so expensive. I
have heard, that in the 19th cen-
tury, the orange was so uncom-
mon, that if you did receive an
orange, everythingwas savored,
and after the orange was eaten,
thepeelwas saved andboiled in
sugar water until it was tender
and then cut in thin strips and
rolled in sugar as a treat – can-
died orange peel.
If children were not good,
their stockings might be filled
with coal instead of candy and
presents. I discovered that the
originof this story canbe traced
to Italy and Sicily. LaBefana is
a kindly oldwitchwho delivers
presents instead of Santa Claus
on January 6. But she leaves
coal for bad children. As a joke,
some children receive a candy,
calledCarboneDolce, that looks
like coal.
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