A Christmas stocking is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that children in the United States and some other cultures hang on Christmas Eve so that Santa Claus 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 in western culture dictates that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a piece of coal. By tradition, the stocking is hung on the fireplace, but, since many modern homes do not have fireplaces, stockings may be hung in almost any location, under the assumption that Santa can find them wherever they are. One traditional practice is to reserve the stocking for five gifts that stimulate each of the five senses, for example: Something to eat like fruit or candy A toy or other item that makes a noise (this can even include nuts to crack) An item that is visually pleasing in any way like jewelry, cuff-links or a coloring book. Something that has tactile appeal such as modeling clay, a soft toy, lingerie or even a pair of novelty Christmas socks or any item with a distinctive scent such as bubble-bath, cologne, perfume etc. 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 stocking belongs to which family member.