15 Dec The Christmas tradition of the sock
Whether linked to Christmas or Epiphany, the tradition of the sock involves many countries around the world.
In Italy, the tradition of the sock is strictly linked to the Epiphany, that is also the day of the Befana.
The figure of the old woman who flies over our skies aboard a broom to bring sweets or charcoal from house to house, is a typically Italian legend, not known in the same way abroad.
The sock, in poor peasant reality, had a double function: on the one hand to bring some fruits of the harvest in view of the new year, on the other hand to give a warm garment useful for surviving during the winter that has just begun.
According to legend, one of the seven kings of Rome, Numa Pompilius, hung a sock in a cave during the winter solstice: it was a propitiatory rite that would bring him gifts and wealth.
In other countries, socks are hung over the fireplace at Christmas. Whether it is Santa Claus or the Befana to fill them, the custom of hanging them for the night is widespread in different areas of the planet.
There are many legends surrounding the tradition of the sock.
Among them there is one that tells of how Saint Nicholas, protector of children and inspirer of the figure of Santa Claus, helped a family in difficulty.
A widowed nobleman lost all his wealth by raising his three daughters alone. The young women, without a dowry, would have struggled to find a husband and would have ended up in dramatic situations to earn some money.
St. Nicholas, bishop at the time, learned of the sad situation of this family and decided to intervene. He wanted to do it discreetly, however, without letting it be known that he was the benefactor. He acted at night, leaving bags of gold on the family fireplace. One of the bags fell and ended up in a sock – it was found right there in the morning.
The story of Nicola’s good deed was discovered and spread rapidly, helping to link the figure of the saint to the protection of children. With it, however, the tradition of the sock also spread. It is said, in fact, that since then many children began to hang one on their fireplace hoping that St. Nicholas would visit them and fill it with gifts.
In the nineteenth century the tradition began to be associated with the Christmas holidays. Initially it was the socks worn by the children that were hung on the fireplace, then the Christmas socks made for the occasion were born.