Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Sock" it to me Christmas

The customary "Christmas stocking"--never knew this: What a delightful tale and significance of an orange placed in the toe of a sock.

In this political season polls and focus groups seem to be all the rage. It is a trend that isn't lost on us here at the North Pole. Before the season we get letters asking for all kinds of things. After the season, we get letters telling us how well we did. Based upon all that feedback, we make changes from season to season. If last year's letters are to be believed the biggest thing Santa can improve upon is the Christmas stocking.

Of course, most folks don't really understand the Christmas stocking.

Many just greedily hang the stocking without thought, although the adage says to do so "with care". Just hang that baby and hope this year's sugarplums will fit inside of it. The stocking is often the last thing looked at on Christmas morning. Compared to the dazzling tree and the array of Christmas splendor spread beneath it the stocking looks plain and anti-climatic. The stocking just can't get any respect.

The Christmas stocking was the first great icon of the season. Before there was a Christmas tree, the only place Santa put any gifts was in a Christmas stocking. That meant gifts were small and intimate in nature.

It began as the legend of Santa was still budding, nearly 2000 years ago.

There lived a man who had three daughters. They were poor. As the eldest daughter came of marrying age her father actually contemplated selling her into slavery because he could not provide a dowry for her to marry. In order to marry, the customs of the times dictated that a woman's family had to provide a dowry - a sum of money or article of value that could be presented to the groom as a token of loyalty and as a means of helping the new family to become financially viable.

Santa heard about his man's dilemma and could not stand the thought of the daughter's future in servitude. So, doing what Santa does, he delivered one fateful Christmas a gift of gold to solve the issue. Legend has it that he tossed the gold up over the roof and it went down the chimney, where it landed in the girl's stocking to be discovered on Christmas morning.

Personally, I think Santa just put it there himself. I've seen the man throw and he's not that good of a shot.

Some say it was a bag of gold, others say it was a ball of gold. This single act of giving from so long ago helps to explain why Santa these days will sometimes put an orange in the toe of a stocking. It is symbolic of the gold given as a saving gift so long ago.

Now that you know that story, does that change the way you view what is in your Christmas stocking?
I hope it does. Santa actually puts a lot of thought into the stuff of stockings.

For believers in Santa everywhere, the Christmas stocking is special beyond words. It is not merely a place for Santa to cram more stuff. It is a conduit. It is a means of personal, quick communication with Santa Claus.

Last Christmas, one of the brighter elves in the Public Relations Department put out a suggestion that kids everywhere should write Santa a note of appreciation and stick it in their stockings on Christmas Eve. Millions did so - and Santa was touched beyond measure, saying to Mrs. Claus upon his return home that he had had the best Christmas ever.

Well-meaning and grateful kids have done so for centuries. In some countries, leaving a note or a drawing for Santa is as big a tradition as leaving out the cookies and the milk.

For those of you who take the time to write letters, on behalf of the employees in Santa's post office and indeed for all of us at the North Pole, I thank you. If we can do things better, we certainly want to know about it. But on some things, we need a better understanding. The Christmas stocking is one of those things. Good things come in small packages…and small packages fit nicely in a stocking.

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