Our 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?