Christmas stockings have always been associated with acts of kindness. When I was a child my parents told me if I were good in the previous year Santa would leave candy in my stocking, and if bad it would be filled with coal. Perhaps that’s why I always had a hard time sleeping the night before Christmas—wondering if I had been kind enough.
While the origin of the Christmas stocking is undocumented, there are numerous legends in which different characters and practices are described. According to a popular European legend, the tradition of Christmas stockings began with Odin, a Germanic or Scandinavian figure. Odin rode a flying horse named Sleipnir and at Christmas children would place their boots by the chimney, filled with carrots, straw or sugar for the magical horse. Odin would reward children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir’s food with gifts or candy.
In recent years, there have been several noteworthy attempts to create the world’s largest stocking. The Children’s Society, a non-profit in the United Kingdom dedicated to fighting child poverty and neglect was awarded the title of the Largest Christmas Stocking by Guinness World Records on December 14, 2007. It was made of over 6,000 red knitted squares and measured 106 feet 9.8 inches by 49 feet 1.4 inches. It weighed the equivalent of three reindeer and was filled with 1,000 presents, which were given to children in The Children’s Society’s various projects. This monumental effort also raised over $17,000 to further The Children Society’s programs.
In January, 2011 Pubblica Assistenza Carrara e Sezioni, a volunteer emergency services organization in Carrara, Tuscany, Italy produced a Christmas stocking measuring 168 feet 5.65 inches by 70 feet 11.57 inches. The effort raised money for a charity dedicated to providing aid to the aged.
What better way to approach the upcoming holiday season than to reflect on the kindness expressed by people around the world. And to explore the creative ways in which we can express our kindness, because there is enough generosity to fill some rather large Christmas stockings.