Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Visit From St. Nicholas

ALL IMAGES FROM St. Nicholas Center

Do you know what today is? The eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas. Tonight is the night you put your shoes or socks out so that St. Nick fills them up with all sorts of treats!

 I have been celebrating St. Nicholas for my entire life, and my mother before her, and her mother too, it is a custom that my family brought over from Germany. In many places where St. Nicholas is prominent his feast day is the day you receive your gifts, not Christmas. 

For those of you not familiar with St. Nicholas, here is an abbreviated history, Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara. His wealthy parents died while he was very young and being the devout Christian that he was he set about giving away his inheritance, to the poor, needy and suffering people in his town. He was raised by his uncle who was a member of the clergy and he dedicated himself to serving God, while still young he became the Bishop of Myra. He became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need and his love for children as well as his concern for sailors and ships. In fact he is the patron saint of children and sailors.

There are many tales and legends of the life and deeds of St. Nicholas which help us to understand why he was so loved and revered. One famous story tells the tale of three young girls who had no dowry, their father was a mean and nasty man and said that with no dowry he could not keep them, he would have to sell them as slaves. Nicholas heard this and tried to think of ways to get them money, without offering charity, as he knew the father would not take it. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, money appeared in their home.  The bags of coins where thrown in an open window, and  landed in their shoes drying by the sill. Hence the reason we put our shoes out!

Some people say it was bags of money, some people say gold balls , that is why you see three gold balls sometimes represented as oranges as the symbol of St. Nicholas, hence the reason  you always find an orange in your shoe or sock along with your other goodies. It is also the reason St. Nicholas became known as a gift giver.

The anniversary of the death of  St. Nicholas also became a celebration of his life, December 6th or if you follow the Julian calendar December 19th. So on the eve of his celebration we leave out our shoes or stockings and a few carrots for his horse or donkey and hope that in the morning we will find some treats, if your bad all you get is a few twigs or some coal.

We do also celebrate Christmas, this was just a little visit from the great man to make sure that we were being good. Apparently we were because we always got an orange, and lots of treats.

What about you? Do you celebrate St.Nick? What are your family traditions? I love hearing all about other peoples traditions or traditions from your country so please do share.

I hope you have a great night, get your shoes or your stocking out, you never know if you are going to get a visit from old St. Nick!

This is from the St. Nicholas site but you can make your own at Wordle.

 If you are interested there are tons of books written on St.Nicholas, and also how the Saint transformed into the modern Santa Claus, Pere Noel or Father Christmas. 

Here are a few of my favorite: 
The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving   
Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend
The Legend of Saint Nicholas
The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale 

Whatever you know him by, he was a lover of children whatever your age. You can also find lots of information at the St. Nicholas Center where there are images of the man, a history of his life and of course suggestions for celebrating his life. You can also find information HERE.

All images from the St. Nicholas Center HERE


  1. I love the stories of our lives. My Christmas has very different tones to it, mainly of family and FOOD. Santa was part of the mix as well as mass and the baby Jesus... but as an adult, I am constantly learning and appreciating the history and the folklore that was born from actual events. The story of our lives. Magical, tragic, redeemed, always hoping.


  2. Thank you for the story.....I love all the celebrations of Christmas. Never has our world needed a holiday that embraces love, unity and beauty as it does right now!

  3. It's a day also marked by the Dutch.

  4. My mother was of German heritage, so we learned of St. Nicholas as a child. When I taught elementary, we always had a study unit on Christmas Traditions Around the World. It was fun for the children to hear these different customs and act them out. The students would put their shoes out and of course St Nick left treats. ;-) Thanks for a fun post.


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