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The History and Tradition of St Nick's Day

Updated on April 14, 2015
St Nicholas
St Nicholas | Source

When I was a child, we celebrated Saint Nicholas Day every December 6th. We didn't use Christmas stockings at Christmas, but for St Nick Day instead. My mother would buy oranges, tangerines, apples and candy to fill our stockings.

The tangerines were a big treat since we didn't get them very often. This tradition was anticipated almost as much as Christmas itself. We'd get our treats after supper. St Nicholas was a saint and I'm not sure what we thought Santa was. In later years and in different countries the idea of Santa Claus or Kris Kringle was a celebration of St Nick. They were all the same person.

Early Tradition of St Nick

The very early tradition of Saint Nicholas Day was that the children would place their boots and shoes near the fireplace at night and receive the same types of treats that we did. In most European countries, they still celebrate the day by children putting out their shoes and boots before going to bed.

The children believe that St Nick keeps track of their sins throughout the year in his little book, very much like Santa Claus does. If the child was good all year they get their treats, but if they have been naughty and committed too many sins they would get twigs and small branches stuffed in their shoes. We always got our treats and I know we didn't always deserve them.

Martin Luther also tried to do away with the tradition of St Nick’s day and his giving of gifts on December 6th, because along with the other changes of the Reformation came the end of glorifying saints. His endeavors weren’t successful.

St Nick's Day is celebrated mainly by members of the Catholic and Episcopalian Church. As a child I was brought up Catholic, so we celebrated this day. Later with my own children, I celebrated the day for a few years and then became a born again Christian and dropped the celebration.

St Nicholas is the popular name for Nikolkaos of Myra. Myra was a province of Lycia where Nikolkaos was a bishop. Lycia is now known as an area in Turkey. Later he was canonized a saint. He lived from 270-346 AD. The tradition of St Nick's Day began because he helped others by placing a coin in a needy person's shoe or boot when they didn't know. This is also how the tradition of the Christmas stocking began. Instead of using the shoe or boot, we use a Christmas stocking.

St Nick is considered the patron saint of children, thieves, Russia and many other countries, sailors, merchants, students, and even the patron saint of New York City. He has been specially designated the patron saint of children.


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    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      6 years ago from USA

      James, Thanks for commenting.

    • James Peters profile image

      James Timothy Peters 

      6 years ago from Hammond, Indiana

      This is a GREAT HUB!

      I, too, wrote a HUB titled "What's the Deal with Christmas" you can check it out at and I also used the AWESOME St. Nicholas of Myra as an example.

      Thumbs Up & More

      Write On!!!

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      6 years ago from USA

      Cody, That is a wonderful tradition.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      We make shoes out of paper than decorate them...then wake up to find candy.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      Micah, I think it is too.

    • profile image

      Micah Oswald 

      7 years ago

      I am german and i love this holiday because its cool! thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      Shari, We always got ours when we got home from school. It is a wonderful memory for me too.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I know of one Catholic family that celebrates St. Nickolaus for my very large, extended Lutheran family, we have always celebrated this special day. Myself, coming from a family of nine kids, looked forward to waking up on the 6th with our shoes filled with goodies. This special day was just as exciting for us as was Christmas morning. I am now 51 years old, and I have never lived a year without celebrating St. Nickolaus. My children are now in their own homes and have carried on the tradition. In our shoes, it is customary to have tangerines, candy (chocolate of some sort...usually wrapped as gold coins). one or two small gifts such as gloves or a deck of cards, and always an ornament for the tree. Coins are a must, whether they are in the form of chocolate or real. As my kids became adults, the coins were replaced by lottery tickets. My grandparents brought the St. Nickolaus Day tradition with them when they immigrated from Germany and Austria. Variations of the holiday can be found in many countries. I encourage all to read up on St. Nickolaus and start a new tradition with their young ones. The simple things make for special moments that one never forgets.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      molometer, Thanks for commenting. Yes he does have his own day, but I think it is more of a Catholic celebration. I was a Catholic when I was a kid.

    • molometer profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Good read and very interesting.

      I had no idea that St.Nick had his own day.

      I love learning new things thanks.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      8 years ago from USA

      We usually got the oranges too, but this was the only time of year we got the tangerines so that is what sticks in my memory the most. They were a big treat.

    • KristenGrace profile image


      8 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      I know people who also carried on the tradition with oranges. Nice current topic for a hub!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I never heard about this before. But I really enjoy to read your story of St Nicholas Day. Thank you very much.


    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      8 years ago from USA

      We probably discontinued it since it was an old German Catholic tradition. I did it for a few years with my kids. Thanks for reading the hub Angela.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      Very interesting Aunt Barb. I really liked this. I heard about this tradition from my mom, and am surprised none of you carried it on with us little ones when we were growing up. Voted up!


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