History of Coal in the Stocking

Santa pushing coal Why does Santa put coal in the stockings of naughty kids? When a child is very naughty, I mark his or her name down on his "naughty" list. Then at Christmas I put a few lumps of coal in their stocking to remind them to be good all year round.

Of course, all things come from some place... and coal in the stocking is a Sicilian tradition.

It began with the legend of La Befana. Two of the Wise Men stopped at the home of La Befana to ask for directions on the night of Jesus' birth. They invited her to join them in going to see baby Jesus, but she refused. A while later, one of the shepherds asked for directions, and again invited La Befana to join him, but again she refused. Looking up into the sky, La Befana saw the bright star, and thought that she should go to find the stable. She gathered toys to give to baby Jesus. (The toys belonged to her own little one who had died.) Unfortunately, La Befana was unable to find the stable. Tradition says that even today, she continues to try to find baby Jesus. Every January 5th and the morning of January 6th (the feast of the Epiphany) La Befana tries to find the Christ child. Throughout her journey, she leaves toys along the way to the good children and she leaves coal for the naughty children. In Italy, there is a rock candy called Carbone Dolce" which looks like coal, and it is often slipped into stockings as a joke.


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