As anyone who has had the pleasure of doing laundry knows, socks can take on a life of their own after a day's use. So why do millions of Christmas revelers hang their stockings over the mantle on Christmas Eve, hoping to find them loaded with gifts in the morning?
The legend behind this tradition is actually quite charming. Sometime in the fourth century, Turkish bishop St. Nicholas of Myra snuck into the home of a poor family with several unmarried daughters who had no money for dowries. The girls had hung their washed stockings by the fire to dry, and St. Nicholas dropped gold coins into each one. The girls awoke to find their dowries paid by a hidden benefactor, and the saint now known as Santa Claus started a tradition that spans the globe.