While there are no written and reliable records of the origin of the Christmas stocking, it is thought that the tradition of stockings started in Holland during the 16th century. There are popular legends that attempt to tell the history of this Christmas tradition and the following is a good example:
Long ago, there lived a poor man and his three beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death.
Saint Nicholas was passing through the village when he over heard the discussion of some villagers who were talking about the situation of the three girls. St. Nicholas wanted to help them, but he knew that the old man won’t accept charity. He knew that that man was a good person and He decided to help in secret. He waited until it was night and crept into their house through the chimney.
He had three bags of gold coins with him, one for each girl. As he was looking for a place to keep those three bags, he noticed stockings of the three girls that were hung over the mantelpiece for drying. He put one bag in each stocking and off he went. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning, they found the bags of gold coins and were of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after.
The word about St. Nicholas being so generous spread throughout the village and then all over the land.
This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
by David B.