Before Santa Claus donned his red, fur-trimmed coat, Father Christmas was better known as third century Turkish saint, St. Nicholas. Known for his generosity to children, the story of his kindness to three unfortunate girls led to the rise of one of our most celebrated Christmas traditions.
St. Nicholas was travelling through a village where there lived a poor man with three daughters. The girls were approaching the age for marriage but, not having enough money for their dowries, their father would soon be forced to sell them into slavery. When he heard about the family, St. Nicholas approached their home at nightfall. Finding the girls' bedroom window open, he threw three bags of money, or golden balls, into the room. The first golden orb fell into the elder girl's stockings which she had left hanging over the fire to dry. The next two landed in stockings at the end of the younger girls' beds. The next morning, the girls awoke to these wonderful gifts and knew that with this new wealth, they would not be sold as slaves.
The practice of leaving stockings hanging on Christmas Eve for "Jolly old St. Nick" to fill with gifts began with this tale. Even St. Nicholas' gift of gold is represented by oranges or bags of chocolate coins traditionally being placed in the toe or heel of the sock.
Through his kind act of charity, St. Nicholas saved three girls from a terrible fate. However, slavery is still a real terror for girls around the world today. Girl Museum is working with the American Poetry Museum and former victims of trafficking to highlight this global problem. You can find more information on the Girl For Sale exhibition website.
Girl Museum Inc.