By the chimney with care

By Judy Stark, Times Homes and Garden Editor
Published December 8, 2007

The stockings

1. A court jester’s footgear? Green velvet stocking with white dots, leopard-print cuff is $30.50 at Ballard Designs, International Plaza, Tampa, (813) 875-7100, www.ballarddesigns.com

2. Folkloric embroidered stocking is $58 at Anthropologie, Old Hyde Park Village, Tampa, (813) 250-3600, www.anthropologie.com

3. Rich corduroy is topped with tulle and snugged with a buckle. $29.99 from Stein Mart, many locations in the Tampa Bay area.

4. A shining star beams on appliqued trees on this monogrammable stocking. $48 from Garnet Hill, toll-free 1-800-622-6216, www.garnethill.com

5. So Nordic you can hear the sleighbells ring. The cuff of this crystal snowflake stocking can be monogrammed. $19.99 from The Company Store, toll-free 1-800-323-8000, www.thecompanystore.com

6. Poinsettia felt stocking has a little picture frame so Santa will know whose it is. $45 from Paper Source, toll-free 1-888-727-3711, www.paper-source.com


Where did this strange holiday idea come from - that we hang stockings on the mantel for Santa to fill?

The story goes like this: Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop of Myra, in Turkey, heard about three poverty-stricken sisters who had no money for dowries. Prospects were grim in those days for women with no money to attract suitors. Nicholas threw a couple of bags of gold coins in the window and down the chimney of their home. Miraculously, one of those bags landed in a stocking that one of the sisters had hung near the chimney to dry. (We should be glad she hadn't hung her unmentionables up to dry, or who knows what our Christmas Eve mantels would look like.)

Nicholas, who wore red and white bishop's robes, also awarded treats to schoolchildren who learned their catechism and behaved well. He is venerated as St. Nicholas and is the patron of mariners, bankers, pawnbrokers and marriageable maidens.

The combination of stockings, gifts and chimneys came together in C. Clement Moore's A Visit from St. Nicholas, written in 1823: The stockings were hung by the chimney with care/In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

If you don't have a stocking - or if a new family member is celebrating a first Christmas - take a look at the variety you'll find in the stores these days. You have from now until Christmas Eve to start stocking up.