A Christmas stocking is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that children hang on Christmas Eve so that Santa can fill it with small toys, candy, fruit, coins, or other small gifts when he arrives. These small items are often referred to as stocking stuffers or stocking fillers. Tradition says that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a piece of coal.
Children all over the world continue the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings. In some countries children have similar customs, in France the children place their shoes by the fireplace, a tradition dating back to when children wore wooden peasant shoes.
By tradition, the stocking is hung on the fireplace, but, since modern homes often do not have a fireplace, it is hung in almost any location when no fireplace is available, under the assumption that Santa can find it wherever it is.
Originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but eventually special Christmas stockings were created for this purpose. Today, stores carry a tremendous variety of styles and sizes of Christmas stockings, from small and conservative, to long and stretchy, to gigantic.
Many families create their own Christmas stockings with each family member's name applied to the stocking so that Santa (or the family members) aren't confused about which belongs to whom
In Holland the children fill their shoes with hay and a carrot for the horse of Sintirklass. In Hungary children shine their shoes before putting them near the door or a window sill.
Italian children leave their shoes out the night before Epiphany, January 5, for La Befana the good witch. And in Puerto Rico children put greens and flowers in small boxes and place them under their beds for the camels of the Three Kings.