Christmas Stocking Traditions Throughout History

  • 3 min read

Christmas Stockings Have Come A Long Way (Thankfully)

If you think about it, hanging a stocking above the fire and then filling it with gifts is kinda weird. So, how did this all start? What did the first stockings look like and what were they filled with? From gas masks to gadgets, we’re taking you on a magical journey through Christmas history to find out just how this tradition began and how it has changed over the years.

The Earliest Christmas Stockings

As with most traditions, the Christmas Stocking has its roots in legend, so it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when it first started. However, one of the more popular theories credits Saint Nicholas with accidentally starting the tradition in 4th century Europe after he threw gold down the chimney of a poor family’s house at night to help the widowed father and his three daughters. When the daughters woke up, they found that the gold had landed in their stockings which had been hanging at the fireplace to dry overnight.

In terms of actual documented use of Christmas stockings, it was first mentioned in a poem in the early 1800s before the Victorians really brought the tradition alive in the UK in the form that is recognisable to us today.

Christmas Stocking Gifts Over the Years

The receptacle itself has evolved from plain old stockings, to socks, your dad’s socks (you can fit more presents in those), to the intricate, hand embroidered style of the Victorian era, and finally the various styles of shop-bought stockings that have been used throughout the 20th century until the present day. Unsurprisingly, what you put inside the stockings has also changed over the last couple of centuries.

The Victorian Stocking

Christmas Stocking

Christmas stockings were typically homemade during this time, and so were the gifts. On Christmas morning you’d usually find it filled with embroidered handkerchiefs, homemade sweets, clothes-peg dolls, pennies, and marbles. Or if you’d been a naughty little urchin, a lump of coal.

The Wartime Stocking

Festive traditions

Resources were limited during this time, so Christmas stockings were filled with more affordable gifts, such as homemade wooden toys and liquorice. Gas masks were also a common stocking present; a great way to traumatise the kids on Christmas morning!

Mid-Century Stocking

Holiday Gifts

In the 50s and 60s, the Christmas tree was now where most gifts would be placed, so the stocking took a bit of a back step (pun absolutely intended). That’s when token presents, rather than the main presents, became the thing to fill them with. Think sweets, coins, satsumas, nuts, and pencils.

The Modern Stocking

Christmas stocking

From the 80s, technology meant that things were getting smaller, and that’s when toys overtook food as the main stocking stuffer. Things like Polly Pockets, Rubik’s Cubes, Tamagotchi, all the classics. Of course, there were still satsumas in there because they just won’t leave.

The Future Stocking

Christmas future

With seemingly everything going digital, we wonder if a physical stocking will even be a thing in the future. Maybe it’ll just become an app called iSTKG that Santa fills with meme NFTs and gaming cryptocurrency - and a 3D rendered satsuma that the elves made on Blender.

Imaginative Gifts That Are Perfect for Christmas Stockings

A random internet quote generator once said “It’s not about the past or the future, it’s about right now” – and we couldn’t agree more. So, what will this year’s Christmas stocking be filled with? Check out our collection of quirky stocking filler gifts that will prove to your loved ones that small presents don’t equal crap presents. Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing.

Stormtrooper multi tool

Original Stormtrooper Multi Tool - £14.99

Naked Ramblers Mini Planters

Naked Ramblers Mini Planters - £12.99

Personalised Marmite

Personalised Marmite - £12.99

Killer Carnivorous Grow Kit

Killer Carnivorous Grow Kit - £7.99

Disney Villains Hand Sanitiser

Disney Villains Hand Sanitizer - £5.99

Unicorn Poo Bath Bombs

Unicorn Poo Bath Bombs - £7.99


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