Lump of Coal
The tradition of the "Lump of Coal" may have started in Holland or Italy, It is agreed that this was originally a tradition for Ney Year's in celebration of the eve of the Epiphany.
In Italy, a kindly old witch visted children on the eve of the Epiphany. She would leave toys and candy for childern in every house, but if the child ad been naughty during the previous year, she would leave a lump of coal instead of candy.
In mid 19th century Holland, there was a belief that if people were poor it was because you or your ancestors had done bad things. Therefore, poor (bad) children would receive a lump of coal instead of candy, cookies, or a small toy. Coal had value to the poor, and it was actually considered lucky to get coal to use to keep oneself warm.
In Scotland it was recorded that as a New Year's tradition visitors would bring a lump of coal for good luck. The saying to with this was: "Lang may yer lum reek!" (Translation: "Long may your chimney smoke!")
Another tradition is the first person to set foot in a home after New Year's Day was considered lucky. If that person brought a lump of coal and a silver coin and you were the recipient of this gift, you (supposedly) would have enough heat and money for the coming year. This is considered especially lucky if the first person to set foot in a house is a tall, preferably handsome man. According to Scottish folklore, a man with dark hair was welcome into the house because it would be assumed that he was a fellow Scotsman, but a man with blond or red hair was con sidered a stranger or Norseman and would not be welcome.
These traditions changed over the years to apply to Christmas Stockings. Parents put coal in naughty childern's stockings in place of treats or toys to signify the importance of being good all year!