Listening to a story about letters to Santa that get delivered every year to the GE campus in Schenectady, New York due to it’s 12345 zip code that kids often write as the zip code for the North Pole because those are the numbers they remember, got me thinking about where some of the traditions of Christmas came from.
Apparently writing letters to Santa began over 150 years ago, but it was Santa who wrote to the children. He wrote them, through their loving parents, to tell them how their behavior had been over the past year and to admonish them to be better children. Parents would leave the letters by the fireplace or in the stockings, and then, the children began to write back. The growing illustrations of Santa in the media of the day caught on, as well as the idea that Santa lived in the North Pole and all of this coinciding with the emerging postal service, so voila!
Sometime in the 1930s, gifts for Santa were left in the stockings so he’d get them when he came down the chimney. But soon enough, stocking began being used for small gifts for the stocking owner, so Santa’s treats were moved to a plate with a glass of milk. The theory, and I like the theory, is that parents wanted to teach their children that they could still give, even in trying economic times. In Ireland, apparently, they leave a pint of Guinness with his cookies and in France, wine of course. Many also leave carrots or hay for the reindeer!