Well, my stocking is hung by the chimney with care, and there better not be a mouse stirring anywhere.
The stocking tradition probably started in Europe, where kids hung their everyday socks from nails for St. Nick to fill. Here are some other holiday traditions our ancestors from around the world have celebrated:
In France, kids put shoes by the door or fireplace, waiting for the Christ child to fill them with presents during the night.
Dutch children put hay and sugar in a shoe outside the house on the night before St. Nick’s Day. After his horse has a snack, St. Nick (Sinterklaas) leaves goodies in each shoe.
Dec. 13 in Sweden is St. Lucia’s Day, celebrating the patron saint of light. Traditionally, a family’s first daughter would wear a long white dress and crown of leaves, then serve coffee and treats to the family. (Somehow I can’t see my sister ever doing this.)
A sprite-like child with angelic wings called the Christkind (“Christ Child”) is delivers presents in areas including parts of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Legand has it Martin Luther invented the Christkind to discourage the figure of St. Nicholas.
Christmas in the Philippines starts Dec. 16 with dawn masses called Misas de Aguinaldo (Gift Masses) or Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) On Christmas Eve, families go to midnight mass and then eat a traditional feast.
Between Christmas and New Years Day, Norwegians go Julebukking. People wearing masks and costumes knock on neighbors’ doors, and the inhabitants try to guess the julebukkers’ identities.
Inspired by the sound of a burning log, a London confectioner named Tom Smith invented Christmas crackers in 1847. The colorful wrapped tubes that snap and reveal a trinket when people pull on the ends are universally popular in England and other Commonwealth countries. Australians call them bon-bons.
Mexican children leave notes in their shoes on Jan. 6, when tradition holds the Three Wise Men arrived with gifts for baby Jesus.
In the UK and Canada, Boxing Day is celebrated the day after Christmas (or the next week day, if Dec. 26 falls on a weekend). There are many theories behind its origins. Nowadays, it’s known for great sales.