St. Nicholas Day Tradition – History & Ways To Celebrate

by Melissa

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St. Nicholas Day 2020 is Sunday, 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. 

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day simply- Family Christmas Tradition- Christmas Service Idea


St. Nicholas Day is every year on December 6th. 


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.


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.



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. 


Here are some great children’s books that will help you learn more about St. Nicholas. 

Saint Nicholas 

Description: “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.”


The Legend of Saint Nicholas

Description: 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.


The Legend of the Stocking 

Description: 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. Filled with the rich, realistic illustrations of Jim Griffin, children ages 4 to 8 will discover the depth of God’s love shown through others as they learn the Christian meaning revealed in The Legend of the Christmas Stocking.


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. 



  • chocolates, oranges, candy canes, small toys, Christmas book or movie
  • 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 Pajamas)
  • An ornament representing the child’s interests for the year
  • chocolate coins representing the coins Saint Nicholas gave to the 3 poor daughters


  • 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. Nicholas 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?



Corie December 2, 2020 - 2:24 pm

So fun! We did this growing up! We picked names and then got a small gift for that person. We left it out and our shoes and “St Nick” would put the gift in the right shoe and some other treats. With my own children I decided that instead of a toy or something, they would make a coupon to do a service for the person they picked. My kids even wrote kind things about the sibling or parent they picked on their coupon. And of course St Nick leaves gold chocolate!

melissa December 3, 2020 - 4:00 pm

I love the idea of a service coupon since that incorporates the history of St. Nick. So fun!


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