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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Traditions - Stockings

Generic 1960's Christmas Tree
Every family has it's own Christmas traditions and our family was no exception.  

During the 60's and 70's when I grew up, our parents would set up a TV tray for Santa, on which we left cookies and milk.  Then, they would shoo us all into bed telling us that Santa wouldn't come if we were awake.  

I think my father was more excited than we were, as he would call us all down early in the morning, to tell us 'hurry up!  Santa had come!'  I remember scrambling down the 1/2 spiral staircase and looking out the window of our front door to see if I could see Santa's footprints or some clue to tell if he had really come.  I also don't recall ever not having a lot of snow on the ground.  In my mind, I can envision the endless white town looking through the glass panes.

Our family's tradition began with an orderly moment of being given our Christmas stockings.  In each stocking, contained an orange or two, an apple, various shelled nuts and a small toy such as Jax, or playing cards, or a small toy and some hard Christmas candies.  I don't remember any of us kids ever actually eating the fruit, because after that, all hell would break loose, as Dad sat in front of the tree, doling out our gifts.  Dad would sometimes hand them to us, sometimes toss them - always laughing.  We would tear them open, complete with sound effects, "oooohhh"  and "aaaahhh" and "yay!"......I miss my Papa.



It was always fun to see from whom we received our gifts, as my parents would make up funny (silly) gift tags indicating  our presents were from various famous people, and each one would have a personal meaning, or they would only have a purpose of being funny.  We would laugh a lot. For instance, our gift tags would read something like:

To: David
From: Cheech and Chong

To: Diana
From: Paul McCartney

To: Denise
From: Flip Wilson

To: Donald
From: Larry, Moe and Curley

Thinking back, and realizing that my parents never had a lot of money, but they sure made every effort to make our Christmas a special occasion.  And they never failed.


Today, I was curious if other children had received similar Christmas stockings and wondered from where my parents had found this idea.  

I discovered this interesting explanation of the fruits and nuts in a stocking tradition, from brookhavenmarket.com: 

"In doing ... research it appears the custom actually began in the 1880s with the advent of the cross continental railway system.  By the twentieth century, Santa Claus, working with the local seasonal availability of fresh oranges around winter time, made it possible for most American children to get a fresh orange, tangerine or Clementine at the bottom of their stocking on Christmas."


"OK, so that explains part of the tradition, but just where did the idea of putting fruit in a stocking originate?  For that answer we need to go back a bit further to St. Nicholas, the precursor of jolly old Santa.  Born in a village on the shore of what is now part of Turkey, he inherited a fortune but spent his life helping the poor and the persecuted, and eventually became a bishop in the new Christian church.  

Three Impoverished Maidens or 
The Story of The Dowries
As the story goes, Bishop Nicholas learned of a poor man with three daughters who had no dowries and hence could not find suitors to marry them.  The next night Nicholas returned and tossed three bags of gold for the daughters' dowries through the chimney, which happened to land in the stockings of the three maidens which they had hung to dry in front of the fireplace.  The bags of gold turned into balls of gold which are now symbolized by oranges.  Bishop Nicholas is often portrayed in pictures wearing the red ceremonial robes and miter (or headdress) and holding the staff of a bishop, as well as holding three gold balls, gold coins, or pieces of fruit."
-brookhavenmarket.com