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St. Nicholas' Feast Day is Dec. 6—How Do You Celebrate?

Many will put out their shoes or stockings Dec. 5 in hopes that St. Nicholas will leave them a little something for his Dec. 6 feast day. Read about the tradition.

In some cultures and faiths, St. Nicholas visits well before Christmas.

Many recognize St. Nicholas' feast day on Dec. 6.

Who was St. Nick?

He was born in 280 AD in Asia Minor. His parents died when he was young, leaving him great wealth. The saint was known for doing good deeds and sharing his wealth, such as anonymously delivering sacks of gold to those in need in the dark of night. He is recognized as a saint in many Catholic and Christian churches.

The American Santa Claus, or Old Saint Nick, was derived from the actual St. Nicholas. 

How to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas

The day is celebrated widely in some countries.

In Germany, children put out boots, or Nikolaus-Stiefel, outside on the eve of the Feast Day, in hopes that the saint will leave them treats or goodies.

In the Alsace region of France, for example, a little donkey carries baskets of goodies for children through towns and villages. Special treats are baked and shared, including gingerbread biscuits and a brioche shaped like the saint. 

In Italy, a San Nicola festival commemorates the arrival of St. Nicholas' remains in the town of Bari in 1087. It is a day of festivals and gift giving. Also, because he is the patron saint of women wishing to be married, some young women leave notes and coins for the saint in the basillica there.

Many American families celebrate a version of this day, too. Some follow their nationality's traditions. Others simply set out a shoe or a sock for the saint to fill on the eve, so the next morning their children awake to find small gifts and treats. (This writer's family sometimes got oranges, symbolizing the bags of gold coins St. Nicholas would give away.)

How does your family celebrate the feast? What traditions do you honor? Share yours in comments!

Ferndale_1986 December 06, 2012 at 12:22 AM
I don't celebrate pagan holidays.
Meredith McCutcheon December 06, 2012 at 01:20 AM
This is so cool! I've heard of this holiday but we've never celebrated it. Maybe we'll start this year! So interesting to learn about the historical roots of modern-day Santa!
Jenny Whalen (Editor) December 06, 2012 at 02:50 AM
I always left my wooden shoes (a gift from a well-traveled family member) out on Dec. 5. The next morning, I always had chocolate or some little trinket. It made the wait to Christmas that much more bearable.
Jenny Whalen (Editor) December 06, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Isn't that just about every holiday?
Mark Itall December 06, 2012 at 03:43 AM
How is that Germanic pagan Christmas tree with pagan decorations doing Ferndale?
Diane Peifer December 06, 2012 at 10:19 AM
In my family, St. Nicholas arrives after dark in the early evening of Dec 5. He knocks loudly on the front door and as children we knew we could not look out the windows to try to get a look at him or we risked loosing our gifts. We usually found a large bag on the front steps filled with jigsaw puzzles, chocolates, nuts and fruit inside. My dad use to tell a story about how he and his older brother tried to sneak a peek out the front window at St. Nick. What they got was a large stick thrown through their front picture window and a good spanking!
Fran December 06, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Happy St. Nick Feast Day!
Ardy December 07, 2012 at 09:47 PM
"Ferndale_1986 I don't celebrate pagan holidays." Sure you do; they just have Christian names now. A little research now and again would really go along way for you, FR 1986. I'm sure that even a wikipedia entry could have enlighten you about this ....

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