St. Nicholas Day 2023 is Wednesday, December 6th. Here's all you need to know about the history of the generous and giving Saint Nicholas and ways to create our own traditions for St. Nicholas Day.
WHEN IS ST. NICHOLAS DAY?
St. Nicholas Day or St. Nick's Day is a popular December 6th holiday.
WHO IS ST. NICHOLAS?
According to the St. Nicholas Center, Nicholas was born to wealthy parents. His parents, who raised him a devout Christian, died from an epidemic when he was young.
Trying to obey the teachings of Jesus to "sell what you own and give to the poor", Nicholas used his entire inheritance to help the needy and sick.
He was made a Bishop and continued to dedicate his life to help those in need and especially loved children.
He died on December 6th, which is the day we celebrate St. Nicholas Day.
WHAT IS ST. NICHOLAS DAY?
Different than Christmas, St. Nicholas Day is a day celebrating the life of Saint Nicholas.
This is a holiday celebrated mostly in Dutch and European countries, however Americans with Dutch and German heritage also celebrate this day!
WHY DO WE CELEBRATE ST. NICHOLAS DAY?
There are many legends and stories about St. Nicholas that exemplify the type of person he was:
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry.
This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.
This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
ST. NICHOLAS DAY SHOES
The most popular St. Nicholas Day tradition is to put your shoes out the night before and find small gifts the next day.
WHAT NIGHT DO YOU PUT SHOES OUT FOR ST. NICK?
Children (and adults) put their shoes out on December 5th just before bed. They go to sleeping hoping that Saint Nicholas will come and leave small gifts or treats in their shoe.
St. Nicholas loved children and loved giving, hence this day celebrates both.
BOOKS ABOUT SAINT NICHOLAS DAY
One of our favorite Saint Nicholas traditions included reading books about him.
Here are some of our favorites.
The Deliverer portrays the faith and discipleship of the historical Nicholas as he grows from a boy listening to stories about Bethlehem to the aged saint who learned the true meaning of giving. With stunning illustrations, the story weaves through the themes of anonymous giving and finding one's life through losing it in the service of others. Sure to be a Christmastime favorite, The Deliverer helps families appreciate the role of Saint Nicholas from a more faith-centered perspective.
"Many parents and teachers struggle with how to approach the Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus dilemma. Many deal with this by telling children that the legends surrounding Santa Claus are based on a real, historical figure named Nicholas, a Christian bishop known for his generosity.
This picture book presents a shortened, somewhat fictionalized version of the life of Saint Nicholas, explaining that Nicholas was a servant of God and that, through him, God's love was reflected to others. The story touches on the ministry of Nicholas and his generous gift of a dowry to three young girls as a response to God's love in Jesus. And it brings application to our own lives as we, too, respond with grateful hearts to God's great gift of love to us."
This book tells the story of a young man named Nicholas, who was moved by the plight of the poor and needy. Nicholas spent his life secretly helping the poor all over the world, giving gifts on Christmas Eve to remind people of the greatest Gift of all, Jesus Christ. This gentle Christmas book introduces the original St. Nicholas and offers inspiration for readers to become cheerful givers themselves. The final pages in the book include fun Father Christmas traditions in other lands.
This wonderful Christmas tale, set in the late 1800s, shares the touching story of a young boy named Peter. He sells newspapers to help his family while his father is away at sea, and he’s been saving a bit of his earnings to buy a model schooner in the woodworker’s shop. But after Uncle Jim, the woodworker, tells him the story of St. Nicholas, Peter discovers the meaning behind the hanging and filling of Christmas stockings and learns a heartfelt lesson in kindness and generosity.
HOW TO CELEBRATE ST. NICHOLAS DAY
Celebrating Saint Nicholas Day doesn't have to be complicated.
The simplest way to celebrate St. Nicholas Day is to set your shoes out by the door on December 5th.
St. Nicholas comes in the night and leaves little gifts in the shoes to be found on the morning of December 6th.
SAINT NICHOLAS DAY GIFT IDEAS
St. Nicholas day gifts can be simple! We typically find oranges, chocolates and occasionally new Christmas pajamas or a Christmas book by our shoes.
Here are some more St. Nicholas Day gift ideas.
- chocolates, oranges, candy canes, small toys, Christmas book or movie
- Chocolate letters (this is what they do in Holland!)
- Traditional Ginger Spice Cookies -- the food most associated with St. Nicholas
- Some type of clothing to represent how St. Nicholas gave clothing the poor (such as Christmas pajamas)
- An ornament representing the child's interests for the year
- chocolate coins representing the coins Saint Nicholas gave to the 3 poor daughters
ST. NICHOLAS DAY FOOD
Saint Nick Day can be celebrated with tradition food.
- boiled chestnuts
- Reibekuchen (potato pancakes) & applesauce- we use the frozen hash brown patties
- milk chocolate letter of your first initial
- spicy ginger cookies called “speculaas koekjes” in the shape of St. Nick or a windmill
OTHER ST. NICHOLAS DAY TRADITIONS
- Cookie Plates: Choose a family or person who is need. Leave cookies anonymously on their porch.
- Put a treasure hunt clue inside your advent calendar. On December 6th, children follow the clues to find their gifts from St. Nicholas
- Have a special breakfast feast on the morning of St. Nick Day. Set the table with china and candles and serve a variety of special pastries and breakfast foods. Draw a name before breakfast and throughout the day, do anonymous acts of service for that person.
- Do a secret service for someone else! Make someone's bed, leave a $5 bill on a windshield, pay for someone's lunch in the drive-through, or send a note.
How will you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? Whatever you do, Happy St. Nicholas Day!