I’m introducing a seasonal feature: Christmas History. Or Christmastory. Or Christory. In it, we’ll look back at the origins of some holiday traditions. Today: the lump of coal in your stocking.
Coal in your stocking – If you are bad, and you are a child, and it is Christmas, you will get a lump of coal in your stocking.
This threat is used by weary parents to ensure their offspring toe the behavioral line during the holidays. But during the Industrial Revolution, coal was the best gift a youngster could possibly hope for.
Heat + Light = Not death. And what better gift could St. Nick provide then the deferral of death’s icy soul-sucking kiss?
How much heat does a lump of coal provide? Precious little. How much light? None, really.
But times were tough: you and your 7-year old sister got up at 4am to climb into a hole and sew buttons for 14 hours a day. You’d take every meagre scrap of comfort you could get.
Unfortunately, the beam of happiness a lump of coal once signified has been greenwashed away.
Thanks to the negative effects of climate change and the subsequent investment in ‘renewable resources’, the lustre of coal has faded. In addition to its freefall in the ‘sustainable power rankings’, coal now sports another ‘black mark’ – undesirable Christmas gift.
In fact, thanks to the two-pronged attack of wind farms and idle time, contemporary children prefer toys and media devices to the once-mighty coal lump.
But once, a long, long time ago, Santa bringing a lump of coal meant the best gift of all – the gift of survival.