Christmas Trivia - Stockings

Why are Christmas stockings hung on Christmas Eve?

Although post hoc legends are told of St. Nicholas's desire to secretly help villagers, and thus creeping into a house to leave gold coins in socks hanging to dry before the fireplace, the more probable origins of the tradition of hanging stockings on Christmas Eve, like most Christmas traditions, are pagan.

An older tradition emerges from Scandinavia and the ancient Yule festival. In Norse mythology, the god Odin, father of Thor, was said to have ridden a flying horse, Sleipnir. During the festival, children would place boots filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Sleipnir to eat. Odin would repay the children's kindness by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts. After the introduction of Christianity, the practice continued in Germany, Belgium, and Holland, but became associated with St. Nicholas instead Odin, and the flying horse eventually became flying reindeer.

Today, the tradition involves stockings in most, but not all, countries.  In France, Hungary, and Italy, shoes are set out, instead of stockings. In Puerto Rico greens are placed in a box for the wise men's camels. Both variations may recall the original tradition of the Yule festival.

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