Saint Nicholas. I'm pretty sure you were actually supposed to put out shoes rather than stockings and I'm pretty sure that might have been what we did the first time or two. But somehow that tradition didn't last, and we switched to the more conventional stocking.
If memory serves, I was the one who came up with the suggestion for our family to do this -- mainly because I felt my sisters and I were getting ripped off (as if, eh). You see, our parents didn't believe in Christmas stockings. A hideous thought, I realize, and one that must contribute to who I am today.
Anyway, I read a story in some book about how Dutch kids put their shoes out and had them filled with gifts and candies and thought that we deserved to do the same. Maybe it's just because I've always had big feet that this tradition didn't last long, as we were persuaded to use the more modest stocking from the mantle, a tradition we still follow today.
And I realize the stocking in the image isn't the kind that Santa or St,Nicholas or anyone else fills, but it's the prettiest stocking I own, as it was a gift from my loving sister, Lisa.
Happy Feast of St.Nicholas!