Christmas stockings have their origins in the life of St. Nicholas, an early Christian bishop in what is now Turkey. According to legend, Nicholas wanted to help a very poor man get his daughters married but knew the man wouldn’t accept charity. One night, Nicholas threw three bags of gold through the man’s window and into three stockings, which had been hung next to the fireplace to dry.
In some versions of the story, three gold balls replaced the three bags of gold, and through the centuries, oranges left in children’s shoes or socks were meant to symbolize them.
Eventually, families began to make or buy special stockings for the occasion on the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th, but by the 1800s, Christmas stockings were left out for Santa on Christmas Eve, too, most famously in Clement C. Moore’s poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” which we now know as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”