The hanging of stockings at Christmas stems from the story of St Nicholas. He was an early Christian bishop famous for his kindness. He’s also the forerunner of Father Christmas.
St Nciholas' most famous act of generosity was saving three women from poverty by dropping bags of gold down their chimney. Legend has it the coins fell into stockings drying by the fire. After that children started to hang up their own socks in the hope they too would be lucky.
Another version of the story comes from Holland. There Sinterklass (or St Nicholas) would travel the country leaving presents in clogs. This story then went to America with Dutch settlers.
The tradition was in use in America by 1823, when Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’. Also known as ‘’Twas the Night Before Christmas’, it includes the lines:
‘The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there’
From there stockings became popular in Victorian Britain, with children hoping to find them full of toys, nuts and fruit.