Leggings Unlikely Candidate For
First Christmas Stocking
One legend states that as far back as the 4th century, the Bishop of Myra took pity on two penniless young ladies and secretly dropped a bag of gold down their chimney on Christmas Eve. It fell into a stocking that had been hung near the fire to dry.
It is a lovely little story, but does not carry any weight historically since stockings with feet were not invented until 700 years later! Prior to that, stockings were leg wrappings only. During this period, in England, the well-dressed lay person wore leather stockings (they were called leg guards) and the monks cut strips of fabric and sewed them to fit the leg.
Possibly the Christmas stocking appeared in England between the 11th and 14th centuries, when the knights and merchants were discovering southern Europe during the Crusades. It was possibly derived from the Spanish custom of setting out shoes filled with straw for the camels of the three kings of the Orient, who were said to pass through Spain on Christmas Eve on their annual trek to Bethlehem.
The first silk stockings in Europe were knitted for a lady-in-waiting as a Christmas gift for Queen Elizabeth I of England. They caught on quickly and by the late 1500s, ladies and gentlemen of the nobility wore stocking only of silk. In cold weather, they wore several pairs at once.
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