Celebrating St. Nicholas Day – December 6th

St. Nicholas Day is a beautiful Christmas tradition that helps your family celebrate the season.

St. Nicholas Day

Celebrate December 6th

I am sure there isn’t a single one of you who doesn’t know who Santa Claus is, but have you ever heard of St. Nicholas Day?

My mother was a first generation American. Her relatives all live in Bavaria, the southeast state of Germany best known for the Alps, the Bavarian Forest, Oktoberfest, Lederhosen, the Rhine River, bratwurst, beer, and fairy-tale castles. My grandparents held on to some of the traditions of their native land to keep the heritage alive, one such tradition was St. Nicholas Day.

St. Nicholas Day is December 6th of every year. The tradition stems from a 4th century bishop who became the protector of children and sailors. It is said that he did kind deeds and secretly helped those in need by putting coins and gifts into their shoes. Over the centuries, the tradition led children to polish their shoes or boots and leave them outside the door, in a window sill, or on the hearth. Children would leave carrots or hay in their boots for St. Nicholas’ horse or donkey, and if you were good, and kind, and said your prayers, St. Nicholas would come in the night and fill your shoes with goodies.

Does this sound like Christmas Stockings hung by the chimney with care, or leaving milk and cookies for Santa? It is easy to see that the legends of Santa Claus and Father Christmas derive from St. Nicholas.

Around our home, St. Nicholas Day always brought oranges or tangerines, nuts, and a small gift from St. Nicholas. And each year on Christmas morning, our stockings held chocolate gold coins.

For my kids, The tradition was much the same, but they had two Advent calendars–one, a traditional German Advent calendar like these…

and the other, a fabric calender with pocket bags that tied shut. On St. Nicholas Day, instead of a coin or piece of candy in the pocket, they would find a note. Well, more precisely a riddle that was a clue. Solving the riddle would lead them around the house on a scavenger hunt, until they arrived at the little gift left by St. Nicholas. They too get chocolate coins in their stockings on Christmas morning.

At some point during the day, whether it was after school or before bedtime, I would read them stories about St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas Day is a fun, low-key celebration in the beginning of Advent that reminds children to be kind, and good, and thoughtful–just another wonderful way to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child.

Want some other ideas for celebrating? Check out my St. Nicholas Day Pinterest Board.

Will you celebrate St. Nicholas Day?

What special traditions of heritage do you celebrate?







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34 thoughts on “Celebrating St. Nicholas Day – December 6th”

  1. Nice post! I love the vintage St Nicholas pictures! My Dad was born and raised in Austria until he was 11 and came to Canada. I’m definitely familiar with lederhosen (my poor brother!) dirndls, Weiner Schnitzel, plum dumplings, St Nicholas and the Krampus! December 6th always brought treats from St Nicholas…favorite family cookies, nuts, tangerines, chocolate St Nicholas’s and these little pipe cleaner Krampus devils hiding around the dinner table, keeping us in line. Happy Feast of St Nicholas!

    1. Thanks for the invite to the linky, Laura. I popped over and included my Celebrating St. Nicholas Day – December 6th post. What a fun idea. Enjoy your St. Nicholas Day this year. 🙂

    1. Around here, St. Nicholas Day does not take a lot of preparation. I don’t count cookie baking as that is for the entire Christmas season. The thing that takes the most time is writing clues for the kids to follow, but I have fun with that. And I do like to have the house decorated by St, Nicholas Day. Enjoy! 🙂

  2. I have heard songs about St. Nick – but did not know of the history. Interesting! In the Hispanic culture, they celebrate January 6th ( a month later) as 3 Kings Day!

    1. January 6th is Epiphany, we don’t have a special celebration for it necessarily, but we recognize it. We had a Pastor once that did not [lace his wise men at his Nativity. Starting Christmas Day, he moved the wise men around the room each day coming closer to the Nativity until they finally reached it on January 6th. I always thought that was a neat idea. Your little one would love St. Nicholas Day, give it a try! 🙂

  3. I’ve always loved the story of St. Nicholas. Thanks for the beautiful photos and detailed explanation. I feel like I know St. Nicholas a little bit better!

    1. My kids looked forward to the hunt every year! It really is a great tradition. The clues led them around to different areas of our Christmas decorations. Fun, fun, fun. 🙂 Enjoy!

  4. Hi Lorelai, I’m visiting from Natsha’s G’day. We always celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas growing up (I am the youngest of 9). We grew up Catholic, and I always thought my parents carried on the tradition relative to that (my parents were of Irish and Italian/English descent). We did not put stockings out on Christmas Eve and, like you, we would receive tangerines (they still remind me of Christmas stockings), nuts, and a small gift I was remembering this morning one of my favorite gifts – pierced, monogrammed earrings – in 6th grade. 🙂 I love this memory, thank you for sharing yours. We also celebrated Advent, with a manger on the mantel into which we kids would place a piece of straw each day for a good deed done, with the Baby to be placed into it on Christmas Eve before going to bed. Epiphany was also celebrated, and we never put our nativity away until the feast of the Epiphany.
    Rita C at Panoply

    1. What a wonderful memory of a special gift, Rita. We did hang our stockings, and how funny… I started the preparing the manger for baby Jesus with my kids. We love it too! 🙂 Have a wonderful Christmastime.

  5. This was such a great post and I love all the vintage pictures. Thanks so much for sharing at the Say G’day link up. I’ve just pinned this!

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

  6. Hi Lorelai, I too am a vintage nut, I love the lore of a St Nick a perfect story for this time of year!
    Thanks for linking up on The Oh My Heartsie Girl WW!!!
    Have a great week, Karren~Host

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