Unwrap the story behind Christmas stockings – Dawn Woodward National Sales manager Curaprox UKFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 11th December 2019
There is one time of the year when the world takes on a magic glow, people seem a lot merrier, and even winter somehow feels cosy. Christmas has always been a popular holiday and most people celebrate in style with various customs. These can include decorating a fir tree, adorning the house with fairy lights and tinsel, kissing under some mistletoe, drinking copious amounts of mulled wine, and perhaps singing a little off-key to Wham!’s “Last Christmas”. In Britain, we have adopted many age-old traditions that make the holiday season extra festive, but one of the most loved of these is the humble stocking.
Stockings typically refer to empty socks or sock-shaped sacks that serve as jolly decorations and useful gift receptacles in many homes across the world. This handy piece of hosiery is often hung up on Christmas Eve in the belief that they will be stuffed overnight with gifts from Santa Claus. These gifts can be small toys and other goodies that are known as stocking fillers. Traditionally hung over a fireplace, many people choose to hang their stockings up on staircases, bedposts, or windowsills. Although stockings have become intrinsic to Christmas, the reason why we hang stockings up to be filled with presents remains shrouded in myth and folklore.
Like many Christmas traditions, there is no definitive answer as to where the hanging of stockings originated from. However, there is one prevailing theory that revolves around Saint Nicholas of Myra – the patron saint of children, who Santa Claus is supposedly based on. According to legend, Nicholas was a wealthy man who lived during the fourth century and was renowned for his acts of charity. He took interest in an impoverished widower, who couldn’t afford to pay dowries for his three daughters. Upon hearing this news, Nicholas visited the widower’s house one night and secretly dropped a bag of gold coins down the chimney, which slipped into a stocking that was hanging over the fireplace to dry. Thus, the legend of Santa and the Christmas stocking was born.
Although it differs from culture to culture, country to country, and depending on who tells it, this somewhat far-fetched tale is the most widely referenced in relation to the history of stockings. In another account, three gold balls were placed in stockings for each of the widower’s daughters. This later became a custom of placing oranges in stockings, which resembled gold balls and were much more affordable for the general public to replicate. The tradition of putting coal in stockings is thought to originate from Italian folklore about an elderly woman – otherwise known as La Befana or the Witch of Christmas – who visits children on the 6th of January, leaving treats for those who are good and coal or dark sweets for those who are naughty.
Christmas stockings themselves have evolved considerably over the centuries. Today, boot-size stockings are incredibly sought after, as they are available with quirky designs and can be customised with labels for each member of the family. Some people invest in larger stockings that can be filled with a greater number of gifts. Over one fifth of consumers in the UK bought a stocking last year, which emphasises the popularity of this festive product.[i] With the aim to stuff stockings with a variety of small gifts, some retailers offer affordable stocking fillers to help consumers spread costs during the holiday season.
As a further cost-saving solution, many parents make stocking fillers out of practical items that their children actually need, which may include hair clips, toiletries, socks, underwear and gloves – among other products. Although not the most exciting for children, these are the gifts that keep on giving and can also be used alongside small toys and novelty items to fill a stocking and make it more fun. Purchasing giftsets may also be wise, as these can be divided into single items that can be placed in multiple stockings or under the tree as extra gifts. Products that come in a set may also be individually wrapped to draw out and ensure an exciting unwrapping experience on Christmas day for children and adults alike.
As a dental professional, this time of year presents a chance for you to consider the oral healthcare products you could offer in your practice that could make fantastic stocking fillers. Curaprox offers solutions that are practical, fun and personal, including the Baby range of products designed to help babies and infants develop good oral hygiene habits. The CS 5460 manual toothbrush and Be You toothpaste – available in six unique flavours – can also make colourful, inexpensive stocking fillers that enable both children and adults to continue maintaining their oral health.
The traditions we develop over generations are what make Christmas special. Stockings can help put you in the festive spirit, but it is easy to overspend on impractical gifts to fill them. Take the opportunity to recommend gifts to patients that can offer ongoing value to recipients during Christmas celebrations and beyond.
[i] Globe Newswire. (2019) United Kingdom Christmas Consumer Spending Report 2018. Link: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/03/04/1746144/0/en/United-Kingdom-Christmas-Consumer-Spending-Report-2018.html. [Last accessed: 04.10.19].