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  • How Did Candy Canes Become a Traditional Christmas Symbol?

    Full disclosure: Nobody really knows the “exact” origin of the candy cane. But several tales and confirmed historical facts help paint a minty picture.

    History of Candy Canes as a Christmas Tradition

    Candy canes are one of the most beloved sweet treats at Christmastime. And, of course, candy canes are also go-to Christmas stocking stuffers and Christmas tree decorations.

    But how exactly did candy canes become a Christmas tradition? Who invented candy canes? What do candy canes symbolize? Are candy canes have a religious history?

    As it turns out, the history of candy canes and their symbolism is a bit murky, to say the least.

    Separating Candy Cane Fact From Folklore

    Many Christmas traditions have storied histories. For example, when it comes to the origins of Christmas stockings, the most popular story is rooted in St. Nicholas leaving gold in the socks of a widower’s three daughters.

    When it comes to candy canes, there are also many tales, but little documented evidence. Smithonsian.com says, “There are a lot of explanations floating around out there about the candy cane—but almost none of them are true.” And as Time Magazine puts it, “The history of the candy cane is mired in folklore.”

    Of course, with Christmas being a celebration rooted in Christian tradition to honor the first coming of Jesus Christ, many of the stories have religious roots.

    What are those stories? Let’s explore the three most common.

    The German Choirmaster

    As the story goes, “church history” states that back 1670 the choirmaster Germany’s Cologne Cathedral was facing an all-to common problem: keeping children still, quiet, and engaged during long Christmas services.

    In search of a solution, he visited a local candymaker, and as legend tells it, the choirmaster paused when he saw white “sugar sticks.” Thinking these sugar sticks could do just the trick, but worrying giving children sugar during worship may be frowned upon, he allegedly asked the candymaker if he could bend the top to make the sticks look more like a shepherd's cane.

    This way, the children could remember the shepherd’s that visited the infant Jesus—and the white color could be used to teach children about living a sinless life.

    However, according to Snopes, no one has been able to produce documentation that either confirms the account or reliably dates it to the 17th century. Moreover, the first written references of candy canes at Christmas didn’t pop up until 1874, which is 200 years after it was reportedly invented and popularized, the fact checking organization says.

    The Indiana Candymaker

    The Indiana-based candymaker story competes most directly with the German choirmaster account. In this origin story, which reportedly takes on the same timeline as the choirmaster tale, it’s said that the Indiana confectioner wanted to make a candy that could be a “witness,” incorporating multiple symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus.

    Legend says the shape of the cane—a “J”— pays homage to His name, as well as the shepherd’s stick. The white would represent purity and the sinless nature of Jesus. Finally, thinking the candy was far too plain, the candymaker stained it red to symbolize the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

    Once again, this story has a few problematic historical references, according to Snopes, with the biggest error in the locale of the supposed invention. Indiana didn’t exist in the 17th century, and it’s hard to fathom that history would neglect to record this inventor’s name.

    The Immigrant

    This story speaks more to why candy canes may have become part of Christmas tradition, but not too much detail as to who created them or exactly when.

    In this story, candy canes became part of Christmas tradition in the United States in 1847 when German immigrant August Imgard, who’s said to be the one who introduced Christmas trees in Ohio, decorated his tree with candy canes.

    While most don’t dispute his claim to Christmas tree fame, there’s contradicting evidence on whether candy canes were used as ornaments.

    The Undisputed Piece of Candy Cane History

    While we may not know when, how, or who invented candy canes, what we do know is that the Keller Machine, invented in the mid-1950s, changed candy cane production for the better.

    Candymaker Bob McCormack was reportedly having trouble consistently creating hooked candy canes; many were ending up in the trash. That’s until Father Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest and the brother-in-law of the candymaker, invented a machine that automated the process.

    Soon after, the machine was reportedly perfected by two of McCormack’s employees, helping the candies come out perfect nearly every time.

    As they say, the rest is history. Regardless of how candy canes came to be part of the Christmas celebration, they’re here and here to stay. So, when it comes time to decorate the tree or stuff your Christmas stockings, add candy canes with cheer.

    Shop Personalized Christmas Stockings

     

  • History of Christmas Stockings

    The role that Christmas stockings play in a family’s celebration of Christmas is not one to be taken lightly. Most adults vividly remember the pride of hanging their own personalized stocking as a child, and the excitement of discovering the small goodies left by Santa. But just how did this tradition come to be, and how has the tradition transformed over the years? Read on to find out.

    History of Christmas stockings

    Origins of the Christmas Stocking

    The origination of the Christmas stocking tradition dates back over, shortly after the legend of St. Nicholas took root in the early centuries A.D. Though there are no definitive explanations of how Christmas stockings came to be, several variations of this folktale have been circulated throughout history.

    The most popular story being of a poor and widowed Englishman and his the three daughters. The story says that St. Nicholas, known for his kindness and generosity, had discovered the family’s misfortune and set out to deliver an extravagant gift. On Christmas eve, St. Nicholas tossed three bags of gold coins down the family’s chimney, where they landed in the socks that were hung above the fireplace to dry.

    The story of the Christmas stockings fissured into several unique traditions. Some would hang their father’s wool socks (the bigger the better, of course), others would hang uniquely decorated sock-shaped bags. On Christmas Day, children around the world would awaken to find their stockings stuffed with small gifts and sweets.

    Today’s Christmas Stocking Traditions

    Today’s Christmas stockings are typically created in the shape of an oversized sock, and personalized for each individual in the family. Some feature simple names stitched at the top, others are hand-crafted works of art that portray the hobbies and interests of the cheerful individuals.

    In the last century, the tradition of Christmas stockings has relaxed, with families experimenting with the location, stocking stuffers, design and fabric. For those that want to venture away from the traditional placement above the fireplace, or for those that don’t have a fireplace, here are some popular alternatives:

    • Cascading down a staircase
    • Hanging from a DIY mantel
    • Perched atop your entertainment stand
    • Strung across an open wall

    One of the most interesting aspects of modern-day stocking stuffers is the individual practices passed down from generation to generation. Every Christmas, my father is absolutely adamant that each child receives an orange and a new toothbrush, nuzzled among handfuls of candy. This was the tradition passed down to him by his father, and the tradition that his grandfather bestowed upon his father. Each family has their own tradition of stocking stuffers, but the most common items used for stocking stuffers today are:

    • Candy
    • Jewelry
    • Fruit
    • Gift cards
    • Small toys or games
    • Books
    • Bath and beauty products

    When it comes to the fabric options for Christmas stockings, the most common types are wool, velvet, felt, quilted soft cotton, cozy cableknit and burlap. The fabric you choose for your Christmas stockings helps to guide the rest of your Christmas decor. For instance, velvet stockings are the perfect addition to a classic Christmas theme, while burlap stockings are a trendy statement in a modern or rustic theme. Below are examples of the most popular stocking fabrics.

  • 8 Christmas Stocking Ideas for Boys

    When it comes to Christmas decor, arguably the most important elements are the Christmas stockings. Think back to your own childhood Christmas - each person in the family had a stocking that represented something they loved - sports, animals, a special talent. And for most families, the same Christmas stocking was hung year after year, creating a special memory of the unique collection of stockings.

    When it comes to Christmas stockings for boys, choose one that’s high-quality to ensure it lasts through their most precious Christmas years, and one that’s unique to their personality or hobbies. Below are a collection of our favorite Christmas stockings for boys. Simply click on an image to learn more about each.

    Friendly Rudolph Christmas Stocking

    Capture the innocence of childhood with his favorite Christmas story character: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. The best part about this stocking is it arrives as a Christmas stocking kit - which means he can take pride in crafting his stocking together with grandma, mom or all by himself. The precious memories of creating his Rudolph stocking will be reignited with each Christmas the stocking is hung.

    View this Rudolph Christmas Stocking here.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sports-Themed Christmas Stockings

    Whether they love to play or watch sports, boys absolutely love sports-themed stockings. One benefit of a sports-themed Christmas stocking is that kids typically favor a certain sport for most of their adolescence, so the theme will stay relevant through years of Christmases. This great collection features a young man playing his favorite sport, and can be customized with your boy’s name for free!

    View the Personalized Football, Basketball and Baseball Christmas stockings here.

     

     

     

     

     

    Nordic Blue Christmas Stocking

    The color blue has long been associated with boys, and a commonly referenced 2003 study confirms that blue continues to be the most popular color for males. The study showed that 57% of males surveyed claimed blue their favorite. If your Christmas decor theme lends itself to a more simplistic style of Christmas stockings, this Nordic themed wool stocking may be the perfect stocking for the boys in your family.

    View the Blue Nordic Wool Christmas Stocking here.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Daredevil Snowboarding Santa Stockings

    Do you have a snowboarder in the family? If your boy can be found “tearin’ it up” on the slopes, this is the perfect Christmas stocking to capture his passion. Pay close attention to the detail and quality in this snowboarding stocking kit - as the design includes a detailed winter lodge, chair lift and beautifully-placed sequins to capture the magical spirit of Christmas.

    View the Snowboarding Santa Stocking here.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Motorcycle Santa Christmas Stocking

    Boys can’t get enough of those planes, trains and automobiles - especially when that automobile is a decked out motorcycle! If your child enjoys playing with motorcycles, or looks up to a motorcycle-driving family member, this is the perfect Christmas stocking for him. Personalize the stocking by stitching his name into the white racing flag!

    View the Motorcycle Christmas Stocking here.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Choo Choo Train-The Candy Express Bucilla Stocking

    Ever since trains were invented over 200 years ago, little boys across the world have been fascinated with them. In this high-quality Bucilla Felt Christmas stocking kit, he’ll love seeing cheerful Frosty the Snowman in the conductor’s seat of an adorable holiday choo choo train.

    View the Candy Express Train Stocking here.

    BONUS! If you can’t get enough of this amazing holiday train design, consider complementing the stocking with a matching tree skirt and ornament set.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Football Santa Bucilla Christmas Stocking Kit

    A joyful Santa prepares to make his throw of the season on this festive football stocking! For the boy that loves Christmas cheer and football, the Football Santa Christmas Stocking is the perfect option. What makes this stocking even more fun is the fact it’s a Bucilla Stocking Kit. Take pride in crafting such an intricate and beautiful stocking that he will cherish for a lifetime.

    View the Football Santa Christmas Stocking here.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fishing Santa Bucilla Christmas Stocking Kit

    The camaraderie between a father and son, or a grandfather and grandson that develops while fishing is not to be taken lightly. Whether the boy in your life fishes as a hobby, or just on special father-son occasions, this Fishing Santa Christmas Stocking will bring joy to his heart every time he sees it.

    View the Fishing Santa Christmas Stocking here.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Whether the special boy in your life loves sports, a favorite Christmas character or a certain hobby, MerryStockings.com has the perfect Christmas stocking for him. To browse our full collection of Christmas Stockings, visit any of the links below:

    Personalized Christmas Stockings           Christmas Stocking Kits

  • Making My First Bucilla Felt Stocking Kit – Adding a Name

    I am happy to report that I’ve finished the front of my Jolly St. Nick Bucilla felt stocking kit!  I’m so happy with the way it turned out.  

    finished-front

    I did deviate from the instructions slightly.  The instructions say to only sew the top edge of each beard layer.  I decided to sew the layers of Santa’s beard down at the bottom as well and fill them with a bit of fiber fill. That’s the great thing about these kits . . . you can alter them and make them your own if you’d like.

    The next step is to personalize my stocking by adding a name at the top.  Included in the instructions for the kit is an alphabet. The instructions say:

    “Resize the alphabet on copier if needed. Place tracing paper on enclosed alphabet and trace name, pin paper to indicated area and sew through the paper, carefully tearing paper away.”

    Tracing paper is not included in the kit, so I purchased some at a craft store. I put the tracing paper over the provided alphabet and, without resizing the alphabet, I traced the letter R.

    tracing-alphabet-1

     

     

    Then I placed this tracing paper on top of my stocking front to see how it will look.

    tracing-alphabet-2

     

    I decided that I like the size of the provide alphabet, so I’m not going to resize it on a copier.  I also decided I wanted the letters to curve a bit to mimic the edge of Santa’s hat. So, I drew a curved line to follow when I traced the rest of the letters.

    tracing-alphabet-3

     

     

    I finished tracing the letters off of the alphabet in the instructions, making sure each letter touched the ones around it, so it looked like cursive writing.

    tracing-alphabet-4

     

     

    Next I pinned the tracing paper right on to the stocking.

    tracing-alphabet-5

     

     

    The instructions provided by Bucilla do not say what type of stitch to use to embroider a name.  I’ve heard of people using the outline stitch or a stem stitch, and I think this is probably the stitch used to make the name look like the photo on the front of the kits. But I wanted something a bit thicker looking. I opted for the chain stitch using all 6 strands of embroidery floss. This gives a braided appearance.  Follow this link to my tutorial on the chain stitch (or just keep scrolling down):

    http://www.merrystockings.com/blog/making-my-first-bucilla-felt-stocking-kit-embroidery-stitches-102/2016/08/12/

    I started stitching right on top of my tracing paper.

    sewing-name-1

     

    And when I was finished, I started to carefully pull away the tracing paper.  I used a tweezers to carefully pull at some of the tiny pieces of paper stuck between stitches.

    sewing-name-2

     

    Here's the final product:

    sewing-name-3

     

    I also chose to add some more light green sequins around the name.

    finished-name

     

     

    Here is a list of some other ways I have heard our customers use to add names to their Bucilla stocking kits:

    • Take the stocking front into an embroidery shop and have it machine embroidered
    • Use cut-out felt letters and sew them on
    • Use sequins to create the name
    • My grandmother used gold cording that she tacked on to create my name

    If you know of others, please leave a comment!  I’d love to hear how you personalize your Bucilla stocking kit.

    Kirsten

     

    P.S.  I've received some requests for a tutorial on making cording and tacking it down.  Although my Jolly St. Nick kit doesn't require cording, I will tackle this in my next blog. Feel free to send me any tips (kirsten@merrystockings.com)!

  • An Old Fashioned Christmas | Visions of Sugar Plums

    The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
    While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads...

    sugarplums

    Most of us could probably quote the poem "Twas the Nite Before Christmas", but if we were to do that and one of our most curious children were to pipe up out of bed and interrupt, asking,  "Mommy, what's a sugar plum?", what would you say?

    While it would have been common in the "olden days" to offer a piece of fruit as a sweet, a sugar plum really has nothing to do with fruit. In fact, sugar plums were one of the most difficult and tedious confections to make, requiring special equipment and real expertise. Just a single batch of sugar plums could literally take days. So, if they aren't actually plums, what are they?

    A sugar plum could best be compared to what we call Jordan almonds, an almond with a hard candy coating over it. Also, think peanut M & M's.  Sounds simple enough these days, but not just anyone could have made these candies, and as such, they were usually only found among royalty or the very wealthy. These were, indeed, quite special treats.

    So when our modern day children lie in bed the night before Christmas, filled with excitement and wonder and can hardly contain it all in their little bodies, what they might be imagining is "sugar plums"....their favorite and rarely enjoyed sweet....or perhaps it's more of a metaphor for the overwhelming sweetness of Christmas mornings past, filled with love and family and all of their favorite things. And, of course, presents. Or maybe it's merely Peanut M & M's. :)

    So if you're up for the task, go ahead and make some sugar plums.  Many of the recipes will include dried fruit for the center, and that will be equally wonderful and sweet. Alton Brown has a great one that you can find here. As you make these treats, you can have a sweet little history lesson also. :)

    Photo courtesy

  • It's All About the Love

    paper heart chainMy husband is a true and hopeless romantic. He seems to gather energy in the days preceding Valentine's Day, doing cute little things around the house to let me know he loves me. It is very sweet, and makes me feel great! But, Valentine's Day does not need to be centered just around romantic love.

    For many years I have sent my three grown boys (now grown men) their favorite candy. It got a bit more complicated as the miles separated us, there were mishaps like melted chocolate and crumbled cookies, but it still is just so much fun to send a little sweet in the mail. I know they love it even though they don't say anything. The empty boxes prove it!

    Merry Stockings loves Christmas, yes, but we also love all of you, our faithful customers and readers! And, on this Valentines Day 2014, we've got a little something special for you. Today and every day through February 17, 2014, we are celebrating with you our Customer Love Sale. Yep, that's right, we love you! We don't want that to be just words, so we're giving you a special discount on your order of $50 or more.

    This discount is yours even on clearance items! So, don't delay, mosey on over to our Customer Love Sale page to grab your discount code. We appreciate you so much and are happy to serve you both at Christmas and throughout the year.

    Happy Valentine's Day!

  • Get Your Christmas Stockings Now!

    Anyone who has ever made a stocking from a Bucilla kit knows that it is never too early to start! Merry Stockings knows this, of course, and has decided to put a few of the top 2013 stockings on sale. And, this is a SALE. Nearly 50% off kind of sale. You don't wanna miss this.

    There are a total of three stockings for you to snap up:

    sale stockingsPrincess Bucilla Christmas Stocking ~ What young girl doesn't like to think of herself as a princess?!  Nevermind that she has daddy wrapped around her little finger, she will love this hand crafted beauty handing off the mantle at the castle.


    Santa-and-His-List-Bucilla-Felt-Stocking-KitSanta and His List Christmas Stocking ~ Once the list is made and it's been checked twice, all the kids know what happens next....Santa Claus is coming to town! Boy or girl loves to imagine Santa looking at their list, so imagine their delight to see their name atop this cute reminder!


    Snowman-and-Polar-Bears-Bucilla-Felt-StockingSnowman and Polar Bears Christmas Stocking ~ Playful polar bears in the snow make this stocking a favorite for any boy or girl who just can't get enough of the snow! The imagination of a child is vivid and they will be naming those bears before you know it!

    All three of these stocking kits will help you create an 18" felt applique, custom stocking for your special loved one! The kits come complete with beads, felt, embroidery floss, sequins, needle, and of course the easy to follow instructions.  They make great gifts and will become beloved heirlooms!

    All stockings ship within 24 hours of your order, and as always, your satisfaction is guaranteed at Merry Stockings. You haveabsolutely nothing to lose. So, hop over to the website and see which one fits your little one the best.

    Merry stocking making!

     

     

  • Winter Treats for the Kids

    snowmanThe Polar Vortex that has had much of the US in a deep freeze recently is apparently returning. I am not someone who typically complains about or even talks that much about the weather ~ I figure it just is what it is, and even though winter in Minnesota can sometimes be brutal, it's, well, Minnesota and it gets cold here. But, this Polar Vortex weather pattern has dumped some really severe stuff on many other parts of the country too. The governor of Minnesota even closed all schools, so you know it's gone beyond the typical.

    When kids are home from school, we all know that a parent's day just got really complicated. It's good to have a few tricks of your sleeve for these days, whether that be craft projects, special treats or even movie marathons. Today's post features a half healthy snack for your kids for these days. Aren't those glasses of milk adorable?! What could be simpler than milk in an old jelly jar and a straw with a donut hole?!

    There's a lot of great sales this time of year, so if you've been caught off guard like many of us this winter, check out your local craft store for ideas and stock up on supplies.  Stock the kitchen cupboard with extra hot cocoa, marshmallows and whip cream. Busy hands are happy hands, and somehow a cup of hot chocolate makes everything better!

    photo courtesy

  • Getting Organized in January

    get organizedIn our house we do our best to get all of our donations dropped off before the end of the year. It's always one of those mad dashes during the last week of December, and this year wasn't any different. I was thinking about how this is one thing I'd like to change in the new year, I'd like to somehow purge our possessions on a somewhat regular basis.

    I've read all kinds of magazines and books on how to get and be better organized, and many of the tips I have incorporated into my life. One of those is that when  you are facing a closet or storage room, get out three boxes or bags. One is for items you will keep, one for things you will donate, and the other is for things to just toss. It can make the sorting go quickly, and when you get that sense of accomplishment it spurs you on to keep going.

    So, I was thinking that maybe I could do something similar to that with our donations, but do it monthly. Here's the plan:

    • Find a large box and place it in a corner of the house.
    • Put on the mindset of purging those items that are no longer useful or beautiful to me.
    • In the course of cleaning and really just plain living, place these "no longer" items in the large box.
    • Keep an inventory going on the computer ~ this comes in really  handy come tax time!

    That's it. I have always loved the philosophy of it's easier to keep up than catch up, so I think it's time to apply that principle to our annual donations.

  • More Reasons to Celebrate

    hatsMerry Stockings eats, sleeps and breathes all things Christmas. All year long we bring you Christmas ideas here on the blog, and on the website there are Christmas decorations, stockings, tree skirts, ornaments and more available for purchase. We have become known as a resource for the hard to find Bucilla Stocking Kits, and we love receiving pictures when you have finished your creations!

    But, here in the month of January when m0st people are pretty much not thinking about Christmas, I thought I'd  have a little fun and mix it up this week. So, without further ado, I think we all need to get serious about celebrating National Hat Day. :)

    Yup, that's right, today is National Hat Day. Congress hasn't ruled it as such, but as soon as they have time, I bet it's next on their agenda. Besides, I don't really think we need their permission, do we?

    Everyone has at least one hat to their name, so let's wear those hats proudly. I've got so many hats, it's crazy. I started knitting as a hobby a couple years ago, so I've got those. And, then there are baseball caps, and other winter hats and visors and bike helmets, and the list goes on.

    If you have more than one hat too, wear 'em all, every last one, throughout the day today. Make a statement to the world, express yourself via your hat today. You may not have the permission of Congress, but you have mine. :)

    It's only one day a year, so why not?

     

    Photo courtesy

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