My children believe in Santa Claus. Not the fairy tale version of Santa Clause with his red suit, rotund belly, jolly laugh and flying reindeer but the man that inspired the legend: Saint Nicholas. Our family has been celebrating Saint Nicholas Day since my kids were wee babes. My mother introduced this seasonal celebration in our home when I was a child thanks to our Ukrainian neighbours. On eve of December 6th, our neighbours’ children would place their shoes by the fireplace and the next morning they would be filled with goodies. Over the years my children and I have celebrated Saint Nicholas Day in different ways, but a few things always stayed the same: boots or stockings, oranges, chocolatse and books.
I want to share with your some fun way to Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day with your children, but before I do it might be helpful to share a little about Saint Nicholas.
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Who is Saint Nicholas?
Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a maritime city located in Asia Minor (now known as Demre, Turkey) . He was born into a wealthy Christian family but his parents died when he was quite young. Instead of using his inheritance for himself, Nicholas used it to help those in need. Eventually, Nicholas became a bishop of Myra but being a bishop during that time was very risky. Saint Nicholas was imprisoned and exiled, but despite these challenges Saint Nicholas was known for his kindness, compassion and generosity. He died on December 6 in AD 343.
If you would like to learn more about Saint Nicholas visit the St. Nicholas Centre.
When is Saint Nicholas Day?
Saint Nicholas Day is traditionally celebrated on the day of his death: December 6th. However, in some Eastern Christian countries it is celebrated on December 19th. Many of the traditions surrounding Saint Nicholas Day begin on the eve of this feast day, on December 5th.
7 Fun Ways to Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day
1. Leave Boots, Shoes or Stockings Out on December 5th
Traditionally children place their boots by the fireplace, on a window sill or near a doorway on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day (December 5th) and wake up to find them filled with treats likes oranges and chocolate coins. Another tradition is to hang your stockings on December 5th and open them on Saint Nicholas Day. We typically put our boots out by the fireplace, but but last year we opened our stockings, both are fun traditions. Sometimes children will place hay and carrots in their boots for Saint Nicholas’ donkey or his white horse and leave some cookies on a plate for Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas Day Treats:
On the morning of Saint Nicholas Day my children jump out of bed to see what Saint Nicholas has placed in their boots. Typically they each receive an orange, fair trade chocolate and a Christmas book. Some years I’ll tuck in some warm socks, mitten or a small toy. Oranges and chocolate coins have been traditional treats for Saint Nicholas Day because they are reminders of how generous Saint Nicholas was with others.
Here are more ideas of what you can place in your child’s boots, shoes or stockings:
- Orange or tangerine
- Chocolate coins or chocolate Santa Claus
- Nuts or candies
- Socks, Mitts or Toque
- A Christmas themed book (check out my list of Heartwarming Christmas Picture Books (not religious) and Christ-Centered Christmas Picture Books)
- A small toy (a wooden toy, a small figurine)
2. Read a Picture Book About Saint Nicholas
There are many beautiful stories about Saint Nicholas. You can read some of them in the picture books listed below or from here. These are the stories that have inspired the gift giving Santa Clause of today.
- Saint Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins by Jim Forest
- Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver by Ned Bustard
- Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer
- Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki
- The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, with Bonus Cookie Recipe and Pattern for St. Nicholas Christmas Cookies by Aaron Shepard
- The Christmas Rose by Sepp Bauer
- The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Anselm Grun and Giuliano Ferri
- The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Demi
- The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving by Dandi Daley Mackall
- The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan
- The True Story of St. Nicholas by Foster Eich
3. Write a Letter from Saint Nicholas to Your Child
Instead of having your child ask Santa Claus for a list of gifts, write a letter from Saint Nicholas to your child. In your letter you can do a quick recap of your child’s year, how they are growing, and little things you want to celebrate about them. A letter from Saint Nicholas is a lovely tradition from Germany.
4. Make a Batch of Candy Cane Cookies
There’s something about Saint Nicholas Day and candy cane cookies that go hand in hand in our home. Maybe it’s because these candy cookies remind my kids of the staff Saint Nicholas is often depicted carrying. Other families bake ginger cookies, Dutch Speculaas cookies or German Pfeffernuesse cookies to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. Choose a holiday cookie that your family enjoys and make it a tradition to bake those cookies on Saint Nicholas Day.
5. Drink a Cup of Hot Chocolate Outside
And what goes with cookies? Hot chocolate! Saint Nicholas Day is the perfect opportunity to grab a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy some fresh air outdoors. You could even make some hot chocolate mix and gift it to someone that needs a sweet little gift to brighten their day.
6. Do an Act of Kindness for Someone
Saint Nicholas lived his life to bless those around him. He would anonymously toss bags of coins into windows to help those in need! Saint Nicholas Day is a great opportunity to share kindness and be generous to people in your community. Here are some ideas for helping others:
- Leave a kind message for someone to find. (Paint some kindness rocks)
- Offer a helping hand to a family member or friend.
- Invite someone over for a meal.
- Visit an older adult that is homebound.
- Give away gently used clothing or toys to a local charity.
- Choose to forgive someone or ask someone for forgiveness.
- Call a family member or friend that live far away.
- Donate food to a local food bank.
7. Host a Saint Nicholas Feast
There are many different foods associated with Saint Nicholas Day. One traditional meal is a pork roast with apples served with an old-fashioned Devil’s Food cake. Or how about making a breakfast feast of Saint Nicholas pancakes – yum! For more ideas check out this list of Saint Nicholas recipes.