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Celebrating St. Nicholas Day: the historical Santa Claus

A few years ago, we added St. Nicholas Day to our repertoire. What? That’s crazy-talk, adding one more thing to do during the busiest time of the year. I know—but hear me out.

We added this simple observance for a few reasons:

1. As a family, we want to be more mindful of the worldwide Church and its holidays.

2. We want separation between the Man in Red and the birth of Christ. More on this in a bit.

3. Saint Nicholas was from modern-day Turkey, and since our family’s personal history involves Turkey, it’s a fun way to observe that significant part of our life.

4. He was a great guy—a saint, actually—and we’re all about honoring great people in history.

St. Nicholas Day is December 6, and it’s easy to keep it super simple. Here’s a brief history of Nicholas, and how you can add St. Nick’s Day to your repertoire without it being One More Thing.

Who was Nicholas?

Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara, in modern-day southern Turkey (the area was Greek at the time). His parents were wealthy but they died while he was still young. Nicholas spent his inheritance helping the sick and poor in his village, and eventually, he was made bishop of his area (called Myra).

st. nicholas

He lived during the reign of Roman emperor Diocletian, known for his persecution of Christians. Nicholas was imprisoned and exiled at some point of his service, and he was also present at the Council of Nicaea, where he signed the Nicene Creed.

The most famous legend of Nicholas’ service involves three poor sisters who had no dowry, which meant they were unable to marry (and in fact, would possibly be sold in to slavery, as was the custom in those days). One morning, the family woke to three bags of gold mysteriously waiting for them in their home, allowing the girls to marry. Nicholas had tossed the bags of gold into their window at night, so as to remain anonymous (and the legend says they even landed in socks drying by the fireplace).

Another legend says when a ship full of wheat made port in his town, he asked the sailors to give half their stash so he could feed the poor, promising they’d still have the same amount in their stock. They shared, and as the story goes, the sailors still had the same amount of wheat in their ship by the time they made port in Constantinople.

St. Nicholas Center has many more of the legends involving the bishop. Overall, he was known for his generosity in the name of Christ by sharing his wealth among those he served, among those who needed it most.

The real St. Nicholas, and simple ideas for celebrating his life

Why we celebrate St. Nicholas Day

As I get older (and more specifically, once we were confirmed Anglican), I’ve grown to love Advent, and not just Christmas. The four weeks reflecting on the anticipation of Christ’s birth are as enjoyable as Christmas itself. Adding a day to honor Nicholas on December 6, during Advent season, adds to the anticipation.

I love teaching my kids about the real, historical Nicholas, and why he’s a symbol of generosity during Christmastide. Learning about his life also helps explain the whole What-does-Santa-have-to-do-with-Jesus? questions. He was a Christian, and loved giving in the name of Christ. We, too, do this on Christmas.

bc comic

And by setting aside a special day to celebrate St. Nicholas, he’s not really a thing on December 25. I’m all about grace regarding the “Santa issue,” and I don’t want to get into that here—I grew up believing in Santa, and I’m a sane, trusting adult today. But I feel like by adding St. Nicholas Day, we can enjoy both, with watering neither one down.

How we celebrate St. Nicholas Day

The evening of December 5, our kids leave their shoes outside the front door (or if we’re somewhere super cold, we leave them indoors by the door). We’ll then read a book about the historical St. Nicholas for story time before bed.

In the morning, the kids will find a small fabric bag inside their shoes (with a few chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Then we’ll talk about the generosity of St. Nick, and how he reminds us to focus on the needs of others, and to give without a need for recognition.

folk art of saint nicholas
Photo source

Then as a family, we like to give a few dollars anonymously on December 6. Some years, we’ve called our church office and gotten the name of a family who could use a little extra cash, then put a twenty in their mailbox with a typed note saying we love them and are thinking of them.

Other years, we go out to eat and leave a generous tip for our server. Sometimes, we browse the Compassion catalog and choose something together to give as a family.

All this is a simple, tangible reminder about the real, historical “Santa”—and how he really was generous, kind, and someone to emulate.


The St. Nicholas Center has more ideas than you could ever need. They’ve divided up ideas for celebrating at home, church, and school, and they also explore all the ways different countries celebrate the day (it’s much more popular outside North America).

Haley from Carrots for Michaelmas explains why her kids get new shoes on St. Nicholas Day, and she’s also written a book full of recipes for feasts during the Christian calendar—including St. Nick.

Our favorite books:

The True Saint Nicholas, by William J. Bennett, is a fantastic book. Chapters one through three are a great read-aloud for snuggling on the couch as a family and learning about the historical St. Nick in story format.

• We also love Saint Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins.

bakers dozen
Photo source

Recommendations from the AoS community:

And finally, if you read Story of the World with your kids, there’s a bit about St. Nicholas in volume 2, chapter 4, pages 55-57.

If it’s almost St. Nick’s Day, and you feel unprepared yet you’d still like to add it to your repertoire, simply do it another day during Advent! Yes, the global Church recognizes Nick on December 6, but there’s no harm in doing it another day (It’s December 19 on the Julian calendar).

Simply write down the holiday on December 6 on next year’s calendar, so you can enjoy and be in tandem with the worldwide Church for future Advent seasons.

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Tesseliene

    St. Nicholas day is the biggest children’s fest in the Netherlands. Dutch children are not raised with Santa Claus, but with Saint Nicholas. (the only we celebrate Christmas is by putting up a tree, eating together and some go to church). Every year goes as follows: Early november, ‘Sinterklaas’ comes by boat from Spain to the Netherlands (this is what all children believe). The event where he comes off the boat and is welcomed by everyone is broadcast on national television. Then from november until december 5th, Dutch kids can put one shoe by the fireplace or by the radiator with a carrot in it for the horse of Sinterklaas. Twice a week, for most of them. The kids have to sing songs for Sinterklaas to show they behave well. They are told that Sinterklaas and his helpers (zwarte Pieten) are walking on the rooftops at night (Sinterklaas on his white horse). Zwarte Piet goes through the chimney and fills the shoes with candy. (This is why zwarte Piet is black, some people think it’s racist). Then on december 5th (not the 6th for us), we have ‘pakjesavond’ (gift evening). Sinterklaas puts a bag with gifts in front of your door. In many families he visits the house in person (when the family hires actors), to meet with the family. Then all the gifts are unwrapped. On december 6th, Sinterklaas goed back to Spain by boat, but this is just what parents are telling their kids, it won’t we on television or anything. So, this is our tradition. It’s not a religious tradition though, people won’t go to church that’s only with Christmas.

    • Jennifer

      Thanks for sharing all of these traditions here, Tesseliene!

    • Mary Ann Harris

      My husband and I (from Brisbane Australia ) were in the Netherlands when our children were aged 4,6, and8. We were only there for 6 months but we enjoyed celebrating the Christmas season in Harllem outside of Amsterdam . My understanding was that Zwarte Piet was a slave who was set free by Sinterklaas. Also we were envolved with st martins day. Much like Halloween were the children go around to the neighbouring houses and sing for their treats ( they can still remember some of the songs.)
      What is that tradtion about?

      No matter how you celebrate the season, our wishes all seem to be the same. Peace on ? And good will to all men, women and children. May the love in your heart spread faster than a speeding bullet and to land in the hearts those who war against us. It’s a wonderful world?

  2. Tesseliene

    We even have a ‘Sinterklaasjounaal’ (news report) for kids on television every day from the moment he arrives until december 5th. Every year, there is a story made up for the kids, like Sinterklaas lost all the packages, the boat has to be fixed or the horse is ill. But all these problems are fixed before december 5th.

    • Tsh


  3. Sarah

    St. Nicholas comes to our house tonight. The kids leave their shoes by the fire. In the morning there will be glitter everywhere. The shoes always have a clementine, chocolate coins, and the Lindt chocolate St. Nicholas. Sometimes there will be a tiny little stuffed mouse or something but they don’t expect a gift. Our second decoration comes out–a statue of St. Nicholas. I realized today that next year if the timing is right, I will be sending a pair of shoes or slippers off to college with the coins and clementine. That’s how important this little event has become at our house!

  4. Manuela

    Hm, I like this series a lot – thanks for the historical background information! One simple truth is missing though: Jesus was not born in December (easy maths), he never told his followers to observe his birth and Christmas and it’s traditions have pagan roots. I’m completely ok if families choose to celebrate whatever they want. Yes, Nicholas was a great man, but Jesus has simply nothing to do with this, neither on the 6th nor on the 24th and this can easily be researched!

    • Sabrina

      Most people know Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. Its a date to celebrate his birth, not his actual birth day. We celebrate my son’s birthday a full month after his actual birthday. And I’m pretty sure Tsh mentioned one of the reasons to celebrate St. Nicolas day is to keep it separate from Christmas, which should be focused on Christ. Or maybe I just read more into it?

    • Tsh

      Yep, I know he wasn’t born in December. This post was focused on St. Nicholas, so I didn’t want to get into that and make the post longer than it already was. 🙂

  5. Robin from Frugal Family Times

    I’m pinning this for next year, Tsh. I love the idea of celebrating Saint Nicholas. A really great summary – but oh no – their ain’t no way I can add this to 2013. We are up to our eyebrows in busy-ness!

  6. Rebecca

    Thank you. I despise Santa Claus – how could a supposedly loving and generous being who shares many qualities with God the Father possibly show more favor to rich than poor children? St. Nicholas, and giving money or food to another family in need, is a lovely idea to incorporate St. Nicholas without being dragged down into the Santa myth.

  7. Molly

    We do St. Nick too (I always get a kick out of the story of him punching a heretic in the face at a meeting, apparently he was known for his temper). We also do “Santa” stockings at Christmas. For us we don’t mind if our kids want to believe in Santa for awhile while their young, but we like keeping the real person close at hand so that when they know the truth about Santa they can easily replace the fantasy with the real person and understand what inspires us to give gifts at the holiday season.

  8. Molly

    We do St. Nick too (I always get a kick out of the story of him punching a heretic in the face at a meeting, apparently he was known for his temper). We also do “Santa” stockings at Christmas. For us we don’t mind if our kids want to believe in Santa for awhile while their young, but we like keeping the real person close at hand so that when they know the truth about Santa they can easily replace the fantasy with the real person and understand what inspires us to give gifts at the holiday season. x

  9. Christa

    We tell the story of St. Nicholas and open stockings on St.N day. The kids look forward to it each year.

  10. Liz

    We’ve been reading Christine Natale’s stories ( about St. Nicholas every night since Dec. 1. And oh, my girls can’t wait to put their shoes out tonight! St. Nicholas always leaves chocolate coins, a few whole nuts, a candy cane, a tangerine, and a beautiful new ornament for each child. Sometimes there is a small toy, or a new book to be shared too.

    We also like to give to others on St. Nicholas Day – typically, we “adopt” a child for gift-giving (like Angel Tree) or purchase gifts to donate anonymously to a local charity (like Toys for Tots). My girls are always involved in the shopping and dropping off of these items – they are learning to enjoy giving as much as receiving!

  11. Diana@My Humble Kitchen

    I love this, Tsh. I’ve never thought to actually put out shoes for St. Nicholas Day, but I’m totally going to scramble to do this tonight. It should be so much fun!

  12. Jennifer

    My family celebrated St. Nicholas Day when I was a child, and my husband and I celebrate this feast day with our children. We have a special devotion to St. Nicholas, so this day is always much anticipated in our household. We leave out the shoes, have a special breakfast, and go to the daily Mass on Dec. 6. Loved this post – thanks for sharing, Tsh!

  13. Faustina

    My family stopped having Santa Claus come on Christmas Eve and started celebrating the Feast Day of St. Nicholas when I was about 11 years old. So for me, this is totally normal. I find that is takes the pressure off of Christmas day itself, and it automatically cuts out the ‘list of wants’ that is so often a temptation for young children.

    Friday mornings are really busy this year, so we’re going to do our celebration on Saturday morning. We set the table beautifully the night before and serve special breakfast foods. We have stockings for everyone, usually filled with small useful things, chocolate coins and a book. We spend a slow morning enjoying each others company.

    And re: what Rebecca said above about rich kids getting more than poor kids, that is something that we directly address with our children. They get modest gifts year round because we have modest means. They know this. And we explain it by telling them we pray together and ask St. Nicholas to help us to know what Jesus wants us to do as parents and what would be the best way to spend our modest means on a small special present that Christ wants our children to have.

  14. rachael

    We are going to do this tonight, because my dad grew up in the Netherlands and I think it’s a great way to pass down stories from our ancestors. Our 3 year old is SO excited to put a carrot in her show for the horse of Sinterklaas!

  15. Rachel

    St. Nicholas day is when we do our family gift giving – St. Nick comes on the 6th, Jesus comes on the 25th. We’ll hang stockings tonight, they will receive some treats and some stickers/crafty things/socks in their stockings, and 1 gift each (2nd hand wooden blocks this year…) By doing the gifts early in Advent we can then move on to anticipating the truest gift of Jesus. My kids are quite little – almost 4 and 18mos, but we’re excited to establish this tradition with them! We also follow up with a giving opportunity – this year we’ll be helping to deliver a few Christmas hampers to families in our church. Looking forward to hanging stockings tonight!

  16. Erin

    I grew up celebrating St Nicholas Day. We do a small tradition with my kids- setting out shoes tonight and small gifts left in the morning. My boys are 3 and 1 so we don’t get a ton into the historical significance.

  17. Breanne

    Thanks so much for this article, Tsh! I look forward to these posts each month and I always feel a little smarter but not overwhelmed with information after reading them.
    I appreciate the cultural history, I had no idea that St. Nicholas was involved in the Nicene Creed or was such a giving person.
    Definitely want to incorporate this into our family’s traditions, thanks for sharing the super simple way you make it meaningful.

  18. Jolene

    We celebrate St. Nicholas Day! The kids get their stockings filled with the same things each year – a new set of pj’s and some little candies and such. They love it!

  19. Caroline Starr Rose

    Years and years and years ago I wrote a (never published) picture book about St. Nicholas, paralleling his gift to these girls and God’s gift to the world.

    For the girls receiving the gold from Nicholas, the refrain read:
    For his was the perfect gift
    at the perfect time
    which saved each girl from a life of misery
    and even from death itself.

    And with the birth of Christ I changed it to:
    For He was the perfect gift
    at the perfect time
    who saved the world from a life of misery
    and even from death itself.

    This little story still makes me happy.

    • Tsh

      Thank you for sharing, Caroline. Love this.

    • Esther

      Simply beautiful!

    • MelissaJoy

      Just lovely!

  20. Lisa

    Oh my gosh! This is so great! I love the idea of incorporating this into the celebrations. It kind of puts into perspective who St. Nick REALLY was. I had always told my kids he gave gifts because he wanted to honor the Savior. But, to share the historical is so much better.

  21. Sarah M

    I love celebrating St. Nicholas day because it feels like the perfect compromise. My kids always wonder why we don’t do Santa (they learned from very early on the truth, we never “did” Santa anyway) and celebrating this is still fun and also doesn’t take anything away from our time of celebrating the birth of Christ. I also love that the kids learn the historical story and reflects back to Jesus in the first place.
    Sarah M

  22. Jessica

    It’s our first Christmas with our little girl and we’ve been debating whether to add Santa into our celebrations as we’re really trying to keep the focus on Jesus on the 25th. Celebrating St. Nick’s day on the 6th will be a great way to remember this generous saint and in turn prepare ourselves to be generous to others during the advent season. Thank you for all the useful resources.

  23. Caitlin

    Hi Tsh,
    I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge and thoughts in this post. I grew up celebrating St. Nick’s Day. My mom usually treated us with a special ornament or some other small gift. To be honest, I really didn’t know much about St. Nick other than that he was generous. Last year, I looked more into the history since I had become curious over the years and my son, who was then 3 1/2 years old, could start understanding why we celebrate certain traditions. I really do want my son to grow up learning and understanding the reasons for this holiday season, and continuing to incorporate St. Nicholas Day will be one way we do that.

    I’ll be honest, I am quite surprised by how many people celebrate gift-giving on the 6th after scanning the comments above. I think it’s a great idea and makes total sense, but I grew up recognizing Santa and Jesus on the same day. I have never been around anybody following the gift-giving tradition on the 6th. Something to ponder…

    Thanks for sharing more on this topic.

  24. Patti Morfeld

    We do this every year and when my boys were tiny I collected inexpensive storybooks with a Christmas theme and left them for families we played with along with a note explaining the story of the real Saint Nicholas. It’s such a great tradition.

  25. gina

    Dear Tsh,
    I appreciate your educating others about world traditions. Better than the education we get from commercialized TV. Saint Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) is the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas which is designated by the Catholic church as the day to honor a saint on the day of their death (maybe their ascension into heaven?)
    Also, would LOVE for you to do a post on the celebration of the Epiphany, Jan.6th. It is celebrated as the day the wise men found and honored baby Jesus. Most Spanish speaking European, Caribbean, and South American countries celebrate the Epiphany more enthusiastically than Christmas day. They call it Three Kings Day. Miami even has a Three Kings Day parade. Children leave their shoes out on Jan.5 and the wise men come and fill them with candy and gifts. Instead of cookies, children leave carrots out for the camels! Thank you for having a world view!!!! I only learned about it as an adult…I had been too commercialized! My husband celebrated it as a child and now my son does, too!

    • gina

      January 6th, is known as Three Kings Day, The Epiphany, and the 12th day of Christmas! 🙂

      • Laura

        That drives me crazy how the “12 Days of Christmas” is celebrated before the birth of Christ – argh!! I lived in both Germany and Spain growing up so I know about both. We celebrated St Nicholas day, though and continued to do so for several years. I love the idea of exchanging gifts on the historical days, not on Dec 25th.

  26. maria

    hi, thank you for those info, i know a lot of it since i am from Greece and thank you very much for letting people know that where St. Nicholas is from used to be Greek and is now Turkish. Also thank you so much for writing Constantinople and not Instabul. One last thing, my son’s name is Nicholas and we celebrate his namesday tomorrow, although we do celebrate Santa Claus as well.

  27. Sylvie

    Love this post! I specially like how it explains the link between Santa and Jesus and I love your idea to give some money and note anonymously to a family in need.

    Also, your thoughts on enjoying the anticipation Advent brings, reminded me of how in Gretchen Rubin’s four stages of reveling in a moment of happiness, she says that anticipation plays a big part in our joy!

  28. Rae

    We celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6 every year. We tell the story of the real Nicholas, and put up stockings (usually the stockings go up December 1, but we aren’t allowed to touch them until the 6th). We each (even parents!) get some combination of the following: something warm, something wooden, something to eat, and some money.
    Our something warm is traditionally very practical, like pjs, long johns, or socks. The “some money” is usually a gift that cost some money for the parents (we don’t exchange gifts at Christmas), and chocolate money for kids.
    Something wooden can be stretched to be something paper, for instance, or a pencil, etc.
    My little family doesn’t do any gifts on Christmas, but we exchange with extended family on Christmas. I love that St. Nicholas Day is a more intimate family time to celebrate how we like without extended family expectations and pressures. We always talk about how Nicholas did what he did because he loved Jesus, and how we are generous because Jesus was, and asked us to be.
    At Christmas we focus on Jesus and His birth story (and on into His life and death and resurrection), and choose not to buy each other any gifts. It works well for us!
    Thanks for spreading the word on St. Nick!
    Oh, and a tradition we started last year is watching VeggieTales St Nick. Not entirely historical, but very cute and pretty close for little kids! 🙂

  29. Nina

    yes, we have since I was little. My mother grew up in Germany. I really like your idea of a little gift and explaining it was because St. Nick was generous. I will be adding that. We always got oranges and nuts and like ONE measly little hershey kiss…hated that! but we put a list in it of what we wanted.

  30. Misty D

    Tsh ~ Does your family celebrate Santa on Christmas or do this instead? My children go to a Waldorf inspired school and St. Nick visits our school every year through 8th grade. We haven’t done Santa in a few years but this tradition I also want to add at home.

    I just got your book Organized Simplicity and I plan on taking it with a highlighter as my beach read on our upcoming cruise 🙂

    • Tsh

      We’re not anti-Santa, but we also don’t make a big deal out of him, either. We definitely focus more on the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, but we’re okay with Santa decor, songs, etc. As I mentioned in the post, all this is cultural – including celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 – so to me it’s not sacrilegious to incorporate Santa as well. But the kids definitely know he’s actually Saint Nick, a real guy from the past.

  31. Kristin

    Big fans of St Nick here ~ one of my kids’ favorite family traditions.
    Love all the information you included!

  32. Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas

    I love this series, Tsh. And this was a particularly delightful post. Thank you for the link love ; )

  33. Kim

    I grew up in a strong Dutch culture (both of my mom’s parents were Dutch immigrants) so I grew up hearing the stories of Sinterklaas and wooden shoes filled with treats. Here in Bend we’ve become a part of the Dutch American Club of Central Oregon and will celebrate St. Nicholas day on Sunday with a Sinterklaas party. We’ll bring our wooden shoes filled with carrots for his white horse and Sinterklaas will be there to pass out traditional Dutch candies to the kiddos.

  34. Megan

    On St. Nicholas Day my kids always received a new Christmas book each. We now have a huge collection of beautiful xmas books. The big collection came out late Nov. after the Santa Claus parade and provided a welcome change of reading and made the focus more on the Christmas season than just the one day. Sadly, the girls have outgrown picture books (although I still find myself buying them if I see one that is worthy) but they each received a new Christmas movie this morning to add to the Christmas movie collection. The books still come out and they are still read and looked occasionally. They will definitely be saved for grandchildren in the future.

  35. Ann

    I am German, so I have grown up with this holiday, and always loved it.
    Since coming to the US and having children, I have not missed a year celebrating this day. My kids are growing up putting their boots by their door the night before and will find a few goodies in the morning. I had three happy children this morning 😉
    Thanks for sharing this story – I actually did not know that Nikolaus came from Turkey.

  36. Emily

    This post was just lovely. I’m glad I finally got around the reading it in full. I saw from Tsh’s Facebook that this post was probably met with some criticism and definitely does not appeal to every single reader.

    I’m not sure what this contributes, but I felt I had to say it: I love the idea of good will. Even though I am agnostic, The Art of Simple and Tsh have never written anything that offended me or made me feel like anything being crammed down my throat and I appreciate her sensitivity to her readers who believe differently than she does. Those who do acts of love in the name of their respective deity/deities or lack thereof are really no different when someone’s life is made just a little better by the act.

    If nothing else, the thing to take away from the story of St. Nicholas is to help those less fortunate and think of others in the season associated with giving. And I want to thank Tsh for giving us a story to open our hearts a little more.

  37. Kelly

    LOVE this post! I’m a huge believer in the magic of Santa and I love how you shared the history. A GREAT book to read is The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn. It’s a work of historical fiction and even an older tween or teen reader might see the magic of Santa after reading this! I’m posting a link to this heartwarming post on a blog I’m publishing on my site on Thursday entitled “Why I Want to Be Santa.” Thank you Tsh for reminding all of us why this season is truly special.

  38. Sarah

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful tradition – and to all those who’ve shared their own. I incorporated the tradition of St. Nicholas only two years ago. I was raised to celebrate the usual Christmas holiday as many North Americans do. But my partner is from France, and when we blended our families, we decided to blend our traditions as well. We still celebrate Christmas in the usual tradition (a big dinner Christmas Eve, followed by midnight mass, gifts and stockings in the morning and the day spent with family) but now we also celebrate St. Nicholas on, or near, December 6. We have a large dinner on the evening of December 5 (decorate the table in white linen to represent St. Nicholas’ bishop robe, evergreen boughs, red candles and a statue of St. Nicholas – not Santa Claus). We finish the evening by reading a historical account of St. Nicholas. The kids put their shoes by the fireplace, and in the morning find them filled with treats like gold chocolate coins, gingerbread and candy canes. They also receive a new pyjama and a book. The dining table is also adorned with lots of nuts, fruits, dried fruits and treats. We then go out and cut down our Christmas tree that afternoon and spend the rest of the weekend decorating for Christmas.

    We will also prepare baked goods and share them with neighbours (usually anonymously as St. Nicholas did), and the kids donate several of their toys.

    I think there is room for both Christmas and St. Nicholas – no need to “hate” Santa Claus as a commercial figure as he can be a magical presence that has many good qualities that kids and adults can appreciate and emulate. Remembering that the giving nature of these two figures is symbolic of the life Jesus gave up for us, can keep things in perspective.

  39. Erica

    I loved growing up celebrating St. Nicholas Day in Germany. My Dad was stationed there. We put our shoes by the door, and in the morning we had received a switch with candy taped to it. When we moved to the States my parents stopped the tradition. Talk about a sad little girl. My parents thought it was just a European tradition, they say. I started it back up with my husband a few years ago, no kids yet….but we’re big kids. I love how it’s more of a quiet time to learn about God and Advent. I’m a huge History lover… really get into learning about how and why it’s celebrated. He is a mix of the real St. Nicholas and the God Odin (fluffy white beard anyone?). All of it excites me!!! I used to do stockings with greenery/clementine/chocolate coins/candy cane/nuts/small gift. But my hubby wants to do Santa….so now shoes by the fireplace for this and stockings for Santa.

  40. Megan

    So great to see a link to this post on Facebook! My husband is a Pastor and loves to celebrate Church holidays and recognize the true history behind our traditions. We started celebrating St. Nicholas Day a couple of years ago. We have breakfast for dinner, read a story about Saint Nicholas and have a stocking for everyone around our table. Thanks for writing this post!

  41. Pam

    Great post! Thanks for the inspiration and ideas to celebrate St. Nicholas Day.

    I have been surprised over the years how few (even very religious) people know the real story of St. Nicholas. I learned oddly enough about 10 years ago from a Christmas greeting that I received from a Turkish (Muslim) acquaintance.

    My husband really wants to celebrate Santa Claus with our child and so we do. I’d be quite happy to ditch Santa and celebrate St. Nick.

  42. Annie Kratzsch

    I love that you shared this. I just wrote a children’s book on this very subject that was released a few weeks ago. It’s called “Just Nicholas” and tells the story of how Nicholas of Myra became Saint Nicholas and explores his connection to Christmas. It includes a really helpful discussion guide for parents and the illustrations (done by my super talented sister) are gorgeous. We think it would be a great resource for anyone’s St. Nicholas Day or Christmas tradition. You can check it out at and if you enter the promo code jn2015, you’ll get free shipping on orders of 5 or more.

  43. Greg


  44. Greg

    Great post. Wish we had children still at home to do this.

  45. Jill

    We celebrate St. Nicholas day here-the boots are by the door waiting to be filled with a chocolate Santa, a few coins and a small gift as I type. I became familiar with the traditions after living in Europe and wanted to pass the tradition on to my kids. However, with Christmas coming I didn’t want to make it another day of gifts and extra Christmas prep. So, we do the boots and enjoy gingerbread cookies but the focus is on a day of service. We try to spend the day doing random acts of kindness and finding ways to help others (we homeschool so can do this regardless of the day of the week). Past activities included giving out treats to teachers, neighbors, picking up trash in the local park, dropping off donated food and toys, giving donations to the animal shelter and usually choosing our gift to give from the Compassion catalog. As the kids get older my hope is that we can volunteer for the day at a food pantry or nursing home or whatever we can find. t’s a fun day and the focus is on service in the tradition of St. Nicholas himself.

  46. christian

    this is a awesome Christian website 🙂

  47. MelissaJoy

    Thanks for the post, Tsh. We do similar things as you to celebrate St. Nicholas. My husband and I did not grow up recognizing any saints days (pietist turned anglican about 5 years ago). Our families of origin give us space and grace with incorporating these new “observances” throughout the year. Advent through Epiphany get the most airtime, it seems, as we have small children expressing their anticipation and delight around the traditions we’ve been fostering. I like what you say about developing a world view. That is part of what we are hoping for when we expose our children to important people and stories that make cultures unique and special but I hadn’t quite articulated it until I read your post. Thank you for that 🙂

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