Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Christmas Stocking

The Christmas Stocking

by Patricia L. Cummings
Concord, NH, ©copyright 2005
reprinted here on December 5, 2015

The Christmas Stocking tradition is believed to have originated in France in the 12th century. By one account, three impoverished sisters hung their stockings on a mantel on Christmas Eve. St. Nicholas is said to have thrown a bag of gold coins down the chimney, some of which landed in a stocking.

This legendary tale may be responsible for the gold foil wrapped coins that were a part of our family tradition. The “coins” were actually chocolates and a number of them were contained in a little mesh bag. We would each be given a peppermint candy cane, too. Of course, Santa would place these treats right next to a brand new toothbrush as a gentle reminder to brush after eating sweet treats.

When I was a child in the 1950s, Christmas would not have been Christmas had it not been for the row of stockings hung on the fireplace on Christmas Eve. Luckily, we always lived in a home with a real fireplace, so wondering about how Santa would find an alternative way into the house was not a concern.

Each of the four children in the household had a red stocking with a white “cuff” at the top. I vaguely remember our names being placed on the white area, but not how they had been added. We looked forward to all of the delightful little stocking gifts. During the month of December we all tried to be on our best behavior so that Santa would leave goodies and not lumps of coal.

On Christmas morning we would eagerly retrieve the contents of the stocking. In the toe we would inevitably find an orange, a real treat for us northerners. This piece of citrus delight became part of our Christmas breakfast. For years this seemed to be a unique tradition in our family. Therefore, it was with great surprise that I recently found a quote in A Family Christmas, (Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, 1984) about Christmas oranges. Attributed to Roseanne Russell, the statement says, “The orange has its place you know, To fill each Christmas stocking toe.”

There were always little toys, too. My favorite were the square puzzles that one could hold in one’s hand. They consisted of movable pieces which when positioned correctly, would be depict a giraffe or other jungle animal. My brothers would acquire a new bag of marbles, small metal cars, wooden yo-yo’s or a new bright red bouncy ball (with which to drive my parents crazy since the snow outside did not permit outdoor play of this kind).

The contents of the stocking were not extravagant by today’s standards. There were no cell phones or $100. dollar bills tucked into the stocking. Nevertheless, we all anticipated with joy all the little surprises that awaited us.

Originally, Christmas stockings were of the everyday kind. However, today, some stockings are miniature works of art. They can be quilted, decorated with Crewel Embroidery, appliquéd, embellished, and bejeweled. Each one is the work of someone’s imagination and each one is sure to delight the recipient.

What better gift for a quilting friend that a stocking chocked full with fat quarters of fabric held together with a colorful holiday bow? Small, useful gadgets or tools, or a quilt pattern could be included. What quilter would not like a pieced wooden key ring that looks like a quilt block? Or how about buttons, pieces of antique lace, or skeins of silk ribbon, or specialty fibers for the “crazy quilter” in your life?

A deck of playing cards with quilt images might also please a quilter. If you are “crafty,” you might like to create your own “art quilts” made by altering an existing deck of cards, as is a current trend. Gift shops sell tiny books on various subjects including quilting that would fit into a stocking nicely.

Other ideas for stocking stuffers are gift certificates for a favorite restaurant or bookstore. How about purchasing a large, gold-foiled orange-shaped chocolate with wedges that come in various flavors? Tiny boxes of chocolates are another choice and will fit into stockings, great for those who might like a “taste,” but not a lot of extra holiday calories.

A ring box or other small jewelry box can be tucked into the stocking, as can hair ornaments and bows, make-up, or tickets to a concert. In fact, when you think of it, there are many items, some of which you can acquire all year long for the purpose of giving stocking gifts. Of course, the stocking will be and could be, a gift unto itself!

Christmas stocking designed by Patricia Cummings

The poinsettia is a much loved and highly sought flowering plant during the holiday season. To construct the flower you see here in this Christmas stocking photo, I used actual poinsettia leaves as a model. The flower itself is layered and is constructed with the help of a numbered sequence. Note that some leaves will slide under the edge of others, in which instance there has been a seam allowance added. A black netting overlay, and machine stitching in a technique called “Shadow Appliqué” are utilized. With the fusible fleece serving as a liner, this stocking worked up fast. 

Tradition is so much a part of Christmas! I am happy that Christmas stockings were part of a predictable event in my childhood during Christmas tide. Another favorite tradition continues in my household and that is mother’s “Stollen,” a delicious raised bread which contains candied fruit and is frosted with icing, and topped with sliced cherries. 

In my family of origin, we sang Christmas carols, attended Christmas services, and
gave each other gifts on this feast day. For at least this one day of the year, all seemed right with the world. 

Wishing you a very festive, happy and safe holiday season!

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