Family Traditions: St. Nicholas Day

| December 6, 2012 | 20 Comments

Santa Claus CartoonOur family enjoys hosting foreign exchange students, and over the years, we’ve been able to experience some of the interesting observances and celebrations that other cultures participate in. One of our family favorites is one that a German student brought to our home several years ago: St. Nicholas Day.

In Germany, children place one or two shoes beside their bed or outside their bedroom door before going to bed on December 5. In the morning, they wake up to find their shoe filled with candy and other treats… if they’ve been good! Otherwise, they might find a lump of coal or a handful of sticks. When we did this with our student, she played St. Nicholas and had a great time. If you have a teenager, this might be something that he or she would enjoy doing for younger siblings. Here are some things that could be placed in the shoes:

  • Candy. This is the traditional item to place in the shoes. If you have leftover Halloween candy, this is a great way to use some of it up! Otherwise, get some seasonal favorites that you can only buy this time of year.
  • Baked goods. If you’ve been doing any holiday baking, slip a few wrapped cookies or slices of homemade bread in the shoes.
  • Trading cards. My son is into Pokemon, so he’ll be finding a package or two of them in his shoes this year. They make all sorts of cards, from the Garbage Pail Kids that we used to trade when we were kids, to those featuring new characters that we adults find hard to pronounce.
  • Craft supplies. The weather might be getting pretty frightful where you live, so some craft items like pompoms, sequins, feathers and beads might keep the kids busily occupied indoors for a little while.
  • Dollar store items. My kids love going to the dollar store; they can always find all sorts of things that I never knew they needed. Some examples include packs of cards, stickers, little jigsaw puzzles… take a stroll up and down the aisles and see what you can pick up for a buck!
  • School supplies. These are not exciting, but chances are that the “new” has worn off of the things that you bought back in August. A few shiny foil pencils, an unsmudged pink eraser or some brand new highlighters will get the second half of your child’s school year off to a great start.

If you have some qualms about placing edibles in your child’s stinky sneakers or boots, consider using stockings instead. You could also make it a tradition to buy a new pair of slippers for St. Nicholas Day and fill those with treats before they’re worn. Or use some type of bag hung on their doorknobs. It’s okay to deviate from tradition and make the day truly your own!

Traditions like these will follow your child as he becomes a teen, and as an adult, he can do the same for his own children!

Do you observe St. Nicholas Day? What are some of your family’s traditions?

Comments (20)

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  1. Kristi Cartwright says:

    I like this idea. I also appreciate you including “dollar store items” because there are so many items that are perfect for this and for stocking stuffers for little ones at dollar store! We often don’t think about it but it’s an easy way to cut costs at Christmas time! :)

  2. Kelvin Justine says:

    Celebrating holidays really bring us closer.

  3. Renata Lopes says:

    I liked this idea thanks for sharing.

  4. pisa l. says:

    Thanks for sharing. I usually fill their stockings with dollar store items.

  5. Lisa R says:

    I just learned something new. December 5th, is that when they celebrate christmas too?

    sibabe64 at ptd dot net

  6. Lauryn Heintzelman says:

    I remember doing this in elementary! I may just start it up with my family! I can’t believe I still remember too! One of my friends is German and I’ve never thought to ask if she celebrated any different.

  7. Bonnie says:

    Family traditions are so important. We try to add something new every year

  8. Andrea Byrne says:

    Our holiday traditions include picking out a tree topper each year!

  9. Jennifer Mae Hiles says:

    I love learning about other cultures. I can’t help but wonder if they use new shoes… I can’t imagine putting baked goods in my husbands shoes! I fear they would not be edible afterwards, ;)

  10. Carla Bonesteel says:

    My mother always stuffed out stockings for St. Nicholas day every year! Candy and a small toy…we loved it!

  11. tina says:

    Holiday traditions are fun to build each year

  12. Liza says:

    It’s nice to learn from other cultures. The shoes sound like a great idea.

  13. LAMusing says:

    What a charming tradition! The only thing we do that’s based on heritage is we make Greek Stew on Christmas Eve.

  14. Lourdes Guerra says:

    Sounds exciting might have to give that a try :]

  15. Karen Glatt says:

    This is very interesting post about putting items in shoes in Germany! I think that would be fun to do with the kids. The kids are excited to go to bed and then get up the next day to get interesting items in their shoes!

  16. Katie Morris Crider says:

    This is a great idea. It can help the build up to Christmas with all the waiting and countdown to open presents. Doing things a little differently but also adding to our traditions.

  17. denise smith says:

    thanks so much i usually fil;l there stockings with dollar items and some candy

  18. Elena says:

    I like to learn about different traditions. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Jenn says:

    I think it’s important to teach our children the different way people observe holidays

  20. krista grandstaff says:

    I grew up in Cincinnati, a big German/Irish town, and we always got a stocking with candy, a lifesaver book, an orange, an apple, a handful of nuts…and usually something fun like a puzzle or a book :) I moved to Germany when my oldest was 3, and had two more children over there… we celebrated by putting shoes outside our door..and then our neighbors decided to sneak over and put chocolates in them…:) My Mom still does St Nick for all of the grandchildren, long distance of course, and we still do it here at home. ( I always loved it as a kid because my birthday is on the 4th, so I felt like I was getting an extra day!)

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