Friday, December 4, 2015

St. Nicholas Day Traditions

We have been celebrating St. Nicholas Day for several years now.  It is such a fun family tradition for the Advent season!  The kids love it because of the goodies and surprises, and we love it because it teaches the kids (and us!) about the saints and the true meaning of Christmas in such a fun and visual way.

St. Nicholas Day Traditions -

On December 5th, the night before St. Nicholas Day, we place our shoes under the tree/by our fireplace.  In the shoes, we leave a little family present, candy canes and coins (or gold candy), and clementines.

The candy coins and the oranges (or clementines) both represent the coins / bags of gold St. Nicholas gave to the three poor women who needed a dowry in order to marry and escape slavery.  Traditionally, St. Nicholas threw the gold into the house where it landed in the women's stockings that were drying by the fire.  Hence the reason we leave out our shoes on St. Nicholas Day (and stockings on Christmas Day!).

The candy cane represents his Bishop's crozier, which is like a shepherd's staff.  He is a shepherd tending his sheep, like Jesus is the Good Shepherd who takes care of us, His flock.

The family present represents the surprise of those who received charity from St. Nicholas.

The gifts are given when children are sleeping at night because St. Nicholas did all of his charity in secret.  He wanted those receiving the gifts to direct all of their gratefulness to God alone.

And all of it together represents the unselfish generosity of giving to others, which points us to our loving God who gave us His Son, born on Christmas Day.

St. Nicholas Day Traditions -
Every Knee Shall Bow by Gaye Frances Willard

Several of these traditions also make it into our Christmas Day celebration as well.

First - St. Nicholas himself!  Santa Claus and St. Nicholas are the same man, a real historical person.  Santa Claus just means St. Nicholas in another language.  So Santa/St. Nicholas comes on December 6th and the 25th (or is it the 5th and 24th?!).  He brings traditional gifts that have meaning (mentioned above and here) which all direct us to Christ.

Second and third - Stockings and oranges (or clementines).  These were always a family tradition of mine growing up so I have loved continuing it with my own family.  But only recently did I learn of their significance!  Now, I love the tradition even more.

It's beautiful how so many Christmas traditions have so much historical and religious meaning behind them!

St. Nicholas Day Traditions -
St. Nicholas Day 2012 - A new baby brother is on the way!

St. Nicholas Day in particular holds many happy and sad memories for our family:

Of course, it's magic to see the kids excited to see what St. Nicholas brought them!  And I love learning about the saints.  They're men and women with different strengths and weaknesses just like us, and through their holy lives, they direct us to the love of Christ. 

And twice, we got to give the surprise of a new baby in our kid's shoes!  (In 2012 for B who was born December 26th and in 2014 for the twins who we ended up losing.)  And one year ago, our beloved grandpa passed away on December 6th.

So St. Nicholas Day is tied up with many different emotions for us, but in the end it all points us to the charity and generosity of our loving God.

St. Nicholas Day Traditions -

Does your family celebrate any of these St. Nicholas traditions on December 6th or Christmas Day?  What other traditions does your family have?  I'd love to hear how you celebrate St. Nicholas Day!

May God bless us and draw us all closer to Him this Advent and Christmas Season!

 St. Nicholas Day Traditions -
Below I have posted an affiliate link, which means that we may make a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on this link; please see our disclosure for more info.

P.S.  A great resource for teaching the story of St. Nicholas to kids is CCC of America's Nicholas: The Boy Who Became Santa DVD . We gave this to kids last year for St. Nicholas Day.  We love it and watch it year round!

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