The Tradition of Giving Coal

Coal for Naughty Children - The History and Meaning

A lump of coal in a stocking is the universal shorthand for a child being punished. It is well known that Santa brings presents to children who have been good throughout the year, and to the bad ones, he only spares a black rock. But where did this come from?

Strangely enough, it came from a time in which coal was still welcome as a gift. Poor people in the 19th century had it rough. Not much to go around, and due to the technology, when it got cold the only way to keep warm was with burning coal, even putting it in pans under beds to keep warm. So the poor kids would not be able to afford anything but coal, it would be said. It is a bit unfortunate that being “poor” got mixed slightly with being “bad”, but this continued. Think of it as Santa coming into a house. For a good child, he would bring in all the toys and gifts that they deserve. For the bad one, he’d save time by snagging a bit of coal out of the fireplace store and dropping it in the stocking as a warning. So be sure to be good this year, and keep your home soot free!

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