Jean has asked a lovely question.
"I know it's after Christmas, but why do we 'hang stockings by the fire with care'? Why stockings and why the mantel? "
According to Germanic folklore, the god Odin would have a great hunting party each year at Yule. Children would place straw, carrots or sugar in their boots by the chimney for Odin's flying horse Sleipnir to eat as they went by on their way to this hunting party. Odin, being so thankful for this kindness to his horse, would then replace the food with candy or gifts for the children. After the spread of Christianity, this tradition was adopted throughout the region and associated with Saint Nicholas, who also rode around on a horse and was rumored to replace the straw with gifts.
Both Odin and Saint Nicholas were commonly seen as being an old mysterious man with a long white beard. As these traditions changed and moved across countries, when they came to America, it changed from the shoes by the chimney to the stockings or socks by the fireplace and rather than just leaving them on the floor, they were "hung with care" on the mantle.
He has different names in different countries. Sinterklaas is from the Dutch and was a mythical character based on the idea of Saint Nicholas. He rode a flying white horse and was known to have helpers and climb down the chimney to deposit gifts in children's shoes. Britain and the United States took this name and changed it to Santa Claus.
And we still put out a snack for Santa (cookies & milk) and quite often for his reindeer (carrots) and hope fervently for him to replace our offering with gifts and candy. At least I do. :) I was a good girl this year.