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How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day

Updated on December 6, 2019
Chuck profile image

Chuck enjoys celebrating holidays with his family. This has led to an interest in researching & writing about holidays & their traditions.

The Original Santa Claus

Children love surprises and love Christmas. One tradition that is fun to celebrate with young children is St. Nicholas Day.

St. Nicholas was the forerunner of Santa Claus and, like Santa Claus, he secretly delivers gifts to good children as they sleep at night.

Instead of Christmas Eve, St. Nicholas delivers his gifts on the night of December 5th which is the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas or St. Nicholas Day which is December 6th. Also, instead of a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer, he usually travels on a horse.

The Dutch Brought The Celebration of St. Nicholas Day to North America

It was the Dutch who brought the celebration of St. Nicholas Day to America.

During the early days of the settlement of North America, the Dutch founded the colony of New Amsterdam at the mouth of the Hudson River where New York City stands today. In fact New York City began as the Dutch city of New Amsterdam.

The Dutch name for St. Nicholas was Sinterklaas which later morphed into Santa Claus.

St. Nicholas Travels By Horse In Europe

In some countries St. Nicholas brings presents on Christmas Eve, in other countries, including Holland, he brings presents on the eve of his feast day.

It was the 1822 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clark Moore, that established Christmas Eve as the time of St. Nicholas' annual visit to children in America.

Moore is also responsible for changing St. Nicholas' mode of transportation from a horse to a sleigh drawn by eight tiny reindeer. It wasn't too many years after the publication of Moore's poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, that St. Nicholas evolved into the Santa Claus that we all know and love today.

St. Nicholas Day falls right within the Christmas season and, for people with young children, it can be celebrated as a part of the Christmas festivities for the children.

A visit from St. Nicholas on his horse during the night a couple of weeks before Christmas can give the children a taste of the pending big visit from Santa Claus that will be coming soon as well as a little break from the stress and excitement of waiting for the big day.

In addition to adding to the mystery and magic of the season for the children, celebrating the visit and sharing stories of the real saint upon whom our present Santa Claus is based can help children learn and better appreciate the spiritual aspect of Christmas.

Celebrating St. Nicholas Day With Children is Simple and Easy

Celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas, or St. Nicholas Day, is easy and, since it is mainly for the children, it is best to keep the celebration simple.

You can start by telling them the story of St. Nicholas and his kind acts – just click on the links at the end of this Hub and you will be taken to other Hubs of mine about St. Nicholas.

These stories will help children to see that the jolly old man who we now know as Santa Claus had his origins as a good and saintly man who inherited a fortune from his parents and spent his life helping people by sharing his wealth and secretly giving gifts to those in need.

St. Nicholas Arriving in Nazi Occupied Amsterdam During World War II

Have Children Put a Shoe Outside of the Bedroom Door on The Night of December 5th

On the evening of December 5th have have your children place one of their shoes outside of their bedroom or hang their Christmas stocking on their bedroom door or other place.

They can be encouraged to leave a carrot or apple in their shoe for St. Nick's horse (this will be a healthy snack for Mom or Dad when they replace it with the present or treat from St. Nick and a cookie or two for St. Nick which will please dads like me).

After the children are asleep, place a few pieces of candy, a simple little toy or trinket (something small - similar to what you get with a McDonald's Happy Meal), a gift certificate to their favorite fast food establishment, or similar little gift.

Keep the Celebration a Simple Part of the Christmas Season

This is not a big gift giving event. Keep it simple with the idea of simply adding a little extra cheer to the holiday season and/or breaking up the daily routine in anticipation of Christmas.

You don't want anything too elaborate because, more than likely December 6th will be a school day so you don't want to delay them with elaborate gifts or celebrating.

The fun is in keeping it simple - a small and festive break in the daily routine.

Look upon this as being similar to a visit from the tooth fairy, but not a major event or production like Christmas itself.

St. Nicholas in a Golden Santa Claus Outfit

A Miniature St. Nicholas Decoration
A Miniature St. Nicholas Decoration | Source

Celebrating St. Nicholas Day

Do you think celebrating St. Nicholas Day is a good way to engage young children in the Christmas Season?

See results

Dutch St. Nicholas Day Songs

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2006 Chuck Nugent


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    • louromano profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice songs and great info. Thanks.

    • profile image

      yogi bear 

      9 years ago

      this is my school homework to find out how to celebrate it and it is petty good but needs to tell us like what food what people do other than put stocking up.thanks thought!

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      9 years ago from France

      There is no school for my little ones tomorrow (Wednesdays area day off for primary schools in France) so we are celebrating St. Nicholas day this evening with a foundue and putting up the Christmas tree and decorations.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I wish they told about what food people eat during this special day

    • profile image

      Santa Claus 

      12 years ago is a completely free Christmas Website for kids. Animated Santa Claus Cartoons, Christmas Gift Registry, Christmas Games


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