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Most Americans are familiar with the Christmas custom of hanging up a stocking by the fireplace for Santa Claus to fill with gifts. In some countries, however, people use shoes or boots rather than stockings as gift receptacles.

In Sicily, children leave their shoes outdoors on the eve of St. Lucy's Day, December 13 (see also Italy, Christmas in). When the kindly saint passes by during the night, she deposits treats in the shoes, which the children discover the next morning.

In the Netherlands, children put shoes by the fireplace on the eve of St. Nicholas's Day, December 6. Dutch children sometimes also leave hay, carrots, or sugar for St. Nicholas's horse. In the morning they find their shoes filled with presents. German children also receive gifts from St. Nicholas on his feast day. They place their boots by the fireplace, a window, or the bedroom door on the evening of December 5. In the morning they feast on the sweets tucked inside the boots (see also Germany, Christmas in).

In Iceland the Christmas Lads fill children's shoes with candy. Youngsters help the Lads find the shoes by positioning them on a windowsill in the days preceding Christmas. A similar custom takes place in Estonia, where young people leave shoes out on a windowsill in the weeks before Christmas and wait for elves to come fill them with treats.

In France children set their shoes before the fireplace, underneath the Christmas tree, or near the Nativity scene on Christmas Eve. The French gift bringer, Père Noël, fills them with sweets and toys before morning comes.

In Spain the Three Kings, or Magi, stuff children's shoes with trinkets and sweets on Epiphany, which the Spanish also refer to as Three Kings Day. Spanish children deposit their shoes on the balcony, outside their front door, or near a fireplace on the evening of January 5. Many considerately leave straw for the Magi's camels as well. The next morning they race to recover trinkets and sweets left inside the shoes. The Three Kings also fill the shoes of Mexican, Brazilian, and Filipino children on Epiphany (see also Brazil, Christmas in; Philippines, Christmas in the). Filipino and Brazilian youngsters put their shoes near a window or door on Epiphany eve and in the morning find them overflowing with sweets and trinkets. In Mexico children place their shoes near the Nativity scene, or just outside a door or window that they might serve as handy baskets for gifts. They often offer water and straw for the Kings'camels as well.

Further Reading

Christmas in Germany. Second edition. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Passport Books, 1996. Christmas in Mexico. Chicago: World Book, 1976. McLenighan, Valjean. Christmas in Spain. Chicago: World Book, 1988. Ross, Corinne. Christmas in France. Chicago: World Book, 1988.
References in classic literature ?
"Tell monsieur what kind of shoe it is, and the maker's name."
"I said, couldn't you describe the kind of shoe, for monsieur's information?"
"It is a lady's shoe. It is a young lady's walking-shoe.
As he held out his hand for the shoe that had been taken from him, Mr.
The shoe dropped to the ground, and he sat looking fixedly at the questioner.
Finally, with a deep long sigh, he took the shoe up, and resumed his work.
Dorothy carried the shoes into the house and placed them on the table.
'Number five,' said Sam, as he picked up the shoes, and taking a piece of chalk from his pocket, made a memorandum of their destination on the soles--'Lady's shoes and private sittin'- room!
Samuel brushed away with such hearty good-will, that in a few minutes the boots and shoes, with a polish which would have struck envy to the soul of the amiable Mr.
'Here, clean these shoes for number seventeen directly, and take 'em to private sitting-room, number five, first floor.'
'Look at these here boots--eleven pair o' boots; and one shoe as belongs to number six, with the wooden leg.
Davao City has just become the first city outside Marikina to put up a store devoted exclusively to selling the latter's most famous export - shoes.