Wait, Why Do We Hang Christmas Stockings? (Plus 24 Little Gift Ideas)

When you bust the holiday decorations out from the attic or basement each year, does your box include a couple of stockings? There’s one for you, one for each person in the house, and maybe even one for the pets. Every year, you hang them on the mantle or by the tree, but do you ever stop to think about why? Sure, the prospect of more presents is reason enough, but the tradition of hanging stockings goes back hundreds of years, through different cultures.

St. Nicholas

One of the stories that started the stocking craze comes from St. Nicholas. That’s right–the very saint who inspired the story of Santa Claus. It’s said that there was a man who lived in St. Nick’s village who couldn’t afford dowries for his three daughters, meaning that they couldn’t marry.

St. Nicholas knew that this man would never accept charity face to face, so instead he sneakily threw some gold coins down the family’s chimney. The three daughters had just happened to be doing laundry at the time, and their stockings were hanging by the fireplace to dry. Thus, the gold coins fell into the stockings, where the girls found them the next morning.

St. Nicholas was a patron saint in many Central and Western European countries, so the tradition of hanging stockings by the fire took off in places like Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Sometimes oranges are used to represent the coins, since they share a similar hue.

Odin

St. Nicholas doesn’t have a monopoly on foot-related gifts, though! In Northern Europe, where Norse mythology was the main religion before Christianity, there exist different traditions centered around Odin. The king of the Norse gods, Odin was said to travel around the land at the end of the year, looking for brave warriors who could join him in Valhalla. Odin rode a magical eight-legged flying horse named Sleipnir.

Children would leave their boots out by the door overnight sometime in December, stuffed with hay and carrots for Sleipnir to eat on his journeys. In the morning, the children would wake to find little presents, presumably left behind by Odin. As Scandinavia  transitioned to Christianity, Odin was replaced with St. Nicholas.

In the U.S.A.

These traditions of hanging stockings and leaving out boots traveled to the U.S. with the European immigrants of the 18th and 19th century. The first written acknowledgement of American Christmas stockings comes from a poem written in 1823 that ends with St. Nick having “fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,/And laying his finger aside of his nose/And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.” The tradition stuck, and in America we still hang those stockings as a festive testament to the Yuletide season.

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Searching for some little gifts to fill stockings of your own this year? We’ve got you covered. Below are a couple of categories of products that make the perfect little addition to your festive foot-coverings.

Lip Balm

Labello Lip Balm

Sweet Comb Chicago Lemon Lip Balm

Jack Black Lip Balm

Smith's Rosebud Lip Salve

Classic Lip Balm by Labello | $5.50 | Shop Now →

Lemon Lip Balm by Sweet Comb Chicago | $3 | Shop Now →

Mint Intense Therapy Lip Balm by Jack Black | $7.50 | Shop Now →

Smith’s Rosebud Salve in a Tube by Rosebud Perfume Co. | $6 | Shop Now →

 

Votive Candles

Archipelago Botanicals Black Forest Candle

Malin + Goetz Vices Candle Set

Nest Holiday Candle

Diptyque Frosted Forest Candle

Black Forest Tin Candle by Archipelago Botanicals | $15  | Shop Now →

The Vices Votive Set by Malin + Goetz | $45 | Shop Now →

Holiday Votive Candle by Nest Fragrances | $16 | Shop Now →

Frosted Forest Votive Candle by Diptyque | $35 | Shop Now →

Mini Sizes

Nivea Creme from Germany

Zum Christmas Chi Mini Soap

Marvis Classic Strong Mint Travel Toothpaste

4711 Watch Bottle

Nivea Creme (30mL) by Nivea | $2.95 | Shop Now →

Mini Christmas Chi Soap by Indigo Wild | $3.10 | Shop Now →

Marvis Classic Strong Mint Travel Toothpaste by Marvis | $6 | Shop Now →

4711 Watch Bottle (Uhrflasche) by 4711 | $6.95 | Shop Now →

 

Travel-Friendly Fragrance

L'Aromatheque Violette Perfume Extract

Sfumato Siren Song Natural Fragrance

Sabe Masson Eu Vent de Vous Soft Perfume

Hi Wildflower Botanica Lovers Rock Rollerball Perfume

Violette Perfume Extract by L’Aromatheque | $9.50 | Shop Now →

Siren Song Natural Fragrance by Sfumato | $30 | Shop Now →

Eu Vent de Vous Soft Perfume by Sabe Masson | $24 | Shop Now →

Lovers Rock Rollerball Perfume by Hi Wildflower Botanica | $59 | Shop Now →

Sheet Masks

BioBelle #iwokeuplikethis Facial Mask

Eau Thermale Avene Soothing Sheet Mask

Klorane Cornflower Patches

Petite Amie Love Emoji Masque

#iwokeuplikethis Facial Mask by BioBelle | $5 | Shop Now →

Soothing Sheet Mask by Eau Thermale Avene | $9.50 | Shop Now →

Cornflower Patches by Klorane | $24 | Shop Now →

Love Emoji Masque by Petite Amie | $10 | Shop Now →

 

Great Giftable Design

Kent Mustache Comb

Jack Black Comfort & Joy Gift Set

beautyblender

Underberg Collectable

Folding Mustache & Beard Comb by Kent | $15.95 | Shop Now →

Comfort + Joy Gift Set by Jack Black | $18 | Shop Now →

Micro.mini Beautyblender by Beautyblender | $18 | Shop Now →

Underberg 2 Pack in Collector’s Tin by Underberg| $6.50 | Shop Now →

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Sources:

The Legend of the Christmas Stocking

Don’t take Odin out of Yule

Nicholas of Myra

The History of Santa Claus and Father Christmas