A lot of people think that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there’s nothing to look forward to except some holiday shopping and if you’re still in college, final exams. (Kidding!) Well, I’m here to tell you that there is indeed something special to look forward to before the big day. December 6th every year is a celebration of sorts– it’s Saint Nicholas Day!
In my hometown in Pennsylvania, there are many families that honor this fun, little holiday. You guessed it — it’s the same St. Nick whose attributes derived our good ol’ Santa Claus. What else came from this holiday? Christmas stockings!
Growing up, I never realized that St. Nicholas Day was geographically such a cultural celebration. Last year, my mom sent flowers to my work on December 6 with a little note saying “Happy St. Nick’s Day!” and my New England colleagues asked why she was so early for Christmas. Um, she’s not… It’s St. Nicholas Day!? No one knew what I was talking about. After quickly texting my New England native boyfriend to share the news of my floral arrival, I found out that he had never heard of this holiday either.
St. Nick is a bringer of gifts; waiting for his arrival when we were younger was so much fun leading up to Christmas Day. That being said, you can probably guess why I’m so excited to enlighten all of you who have never heard of this day. As a long-time German tradition, St. Nick visits the homes of children everywhere. Understandably so, he’s popular in Pennsylvania because of the German/Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.
So what’s his deal? St. Nick was known for doing good deeds and sharing his wealth. He travels through the night on December 5th to give children candy and small gifts. Before going to bed, children leave their shoes by the front door for St. Nick to fill with treats. However, you only received candy and little gifts if you had been good throughout the year. If you needed to be better before Santa’s arrival on Christmas, St. Nick will warn you by leaving some sticks or even a lump of coal. My brother and I never got any coal, but there were always some sticks mixed in with our treats to remind us to be on our best behavior! Another item sometimes left by St. Nick would be an orange, symbolizing the bags of gold coins that he would give away.
Leaving shoes by the front door slowly turned into leaving stockings out for Santa Claus. Ever wonder why you got both a stocking with small gifts, and many other big gifts under the tree? Probably not… but those small gifts were from St. Nick! I know that some children now leave St. Nick bags or stockings out on the 5th of December as well. However you found your treats as kid, the morning of December 6th was always a fun one!
Happy St. Nicholas Day, TwentyTweeters! Have any of you celebrated this day?