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The Story of the Christmas Stocking, Secret Santa and the Christmas Cracker

It is no wonder that Christmas is such a magical time for so many people all over the world, when we look back at the mystical traditions of gifting.

Christmas gifting brings with it so many mystical traditions and it is no surprise that it is such a happy time. Here, we take a look at some festive favourites including Secret Santa, the evolution of the Christmas cracker and the history behind the stocking.

How does Secret Santa work and where did it originate?

“Secret Santa” or “Julklapp” originated in Scandinavia, where according to custom people left a gift on the doorstep, knocked loudly on the door and left without being seen. Jul means Christmas and Klapp means to knock! Nowadays Secret Santa gifts are kind gestures and tokens of friendship, where office colleagues, long term friends or friendship groups gather together when each of them places their wrapped Secret Santa gift into a sack.

Each person reaches in and chooses a gift which cannot be the one they put in and the fun is not only in the unwrapping of the gift but also guessing which present came from whom. The key is to gift a surprise which is unique yet inexpensive, and something which you know everyone will want and love but one that they are unlikely to already have.

Who invented Christmas Crackers?

Bon bons or Christmas Crackers originate from London as long ago as 1847. Tom Smith was a London confectioner and with sales of his bon bon sweets declining, he decided to market new ways in which to sell them. He first used twists of paper around the sweets, and then he started wrapping the sweets with a love message inside.

His family went on to develop the crackle in the twist of paper which is how the Christmas Cracker got its name and why it still has notes and messages inside it today. Who would have thought that his commercial brilliance would still be showing itself today with confectionary, beauty, lifestyle, jewellery and clothing companies still using this method to market and sell their gifts.

Crackers can be a lovely way to wrap perfume or a body cream, or they can be a small Secret Santa gift. They can also be bespoke and luxurious, with jewellery declaring endless love to that special person at this magical time of year.

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The history of Christmas Stockings (and what you should put in them)

Now for the story of the Christmas Stocking: legend has it that Saint Nicolas, who is said to be from Spain, visited a poor family who had three beautiful daughters. Their stockings were hanging by their fireplace to dry overnight and Saint Nicolas, having climbed down the chimney, saw the stockings and filled them with gold coins which the family found the next day.

If you have often wondered why oranges are traditionally placed into Christmas stockings, it is that they represent the golden coins left by Saint Nicolas – and gold remains the colour of Christmas gifting to this day. Who would’ve thought that such a legend would still be being played out today in homes all over the world which are decorated gold and sparkly.


Many countries celebrate St Nicholas and will commemorate him separately to Christmas, with St. Nicholas Eve and St. Nicholas Day on December 5th and 6th. In European countries including France it is tradition for children to leave shoes in front of the fireplace or by the Christmas tree in the few days leading up to Christmas, for Père Noël, or Father Christmas, to fill them each morning with small gifts.

In the Netherlands, on the evening of December 5th, children tend to leave wooden shoes for Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, filled with sweets for him and carrots or hay for his horses. In turn, St. Nick, who is said to travel from Spain, fills the shoes with treats.

In Iceland, famous for its Viking history, one tradition is that of the Yule Lads. On the 11th December each year, Icelandic children place their shoes in the window in the hope that each night, one of these mischievous troll-like creatures will come down from the mountains and fill the shoes with little gifts and treats. This continues each night up until Christmas Eve, the children must however earn the gifts by behaving well and being kind to others… otherwise they run the risk of finding a potato in their shoe instead.

Why do we give gifts at Christmas?

The act of giving at Christmas dates back centuries starting with the Three Kings who bore gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The birth of Jesus is a well-known story, but our gifts don’t have to be monetary.

Christmas is a time to reflect, to think about what matters to you. For our great grandparents and grandparents times were tough. During war time they showed us what it was to pull together; they shared what they had, and they helped and supported each other. It doesn’t cost money to collect warm clothes for the homeless, give time to someone who is alone and lonely. A small gesture of kindness will bring happiness to someone and that is what Christmas is about.

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If you are looking for a little special gift for your friends or loved ones why not visit our Christmas gift range. We have a wide variety of gifts that will please all your family and friends.