By: Nina Helleny
A fun and special tradition during the first week of Advent. The Feast Day of St. Nicholas, also known as St. Nick Day or St. Nicholas Day is celebrated every year across the world on December 6th.
There are several legendary stories about St. Nicholas which lead to the modern-day belief in Santa Claus, but more importantly the reason we continue to honor him on his feast day.
One of the most popular stories of his work comes from the third century, a daughter was more likely to be married if her father could offer a large dowry to prospective husbands. The story goes that a poor father with three daughters had no dowry to offer. The father was going to sell the daughters. On three separate occasions, it is said good Ol’ St. Nicholas made bags of gold appear in the girls’ shoes drying by the fire at night. Three bags of gold for the three young women, enough to get them out of that cruel house and into a respectable marriage.
St. Nicholas Day traditions now include leaving gifts or gold chocolate coins in shoes (or stockings) or the exchange of small gifts. The feast day is not to replace Christmas. The feast day is specifically to remember and be inspired by St. Nicholas’ generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.
My husband’s family celebrates St. Nick Day is a big way. It’s a wonderful and fun tradition. My mother-in-law creates a large bag for each family and she spends months gathering and collecting thoughtful gifts for each person. After joining the family I quickly decided my home too would celebrate the feast day. Our stockings are hung and our shoes are out in front of the fireplace. St. Nicholas comes during the night and on the morning of December 6th, we normally find very full stockings and shoes. The gifts are exciting but we also say the prayer included here and reflect on St. Nicholas’ work and how we can help those in need.
Prayer for St. Nicholas Day
St. Nick typically fills our stockings with smaller items that would normally get overlooked on Christmas morning. He also brings things the children need for the holiday season or winter vacations like clothing, shoes, and swimsuits. New Christmas pajamas are always included! A special Christmas ornament or a fun one of something they love is a great idea too. Games and other random things each child asks for all the time like a battery-operated pencil sharpener or training baseballs get added in too. St. Nick also loves books and vintage toys!
Don’t worry parents’ stockings and shoes get filled too! Most of the time St. Nick gifts us things I have either collected or also small items like children or things I’m going to purchase anyway (like pajamas, coffee, or office supplies). Here are a couple of ideas for you – personalized Yeti coffee cups, pajamas, pizza socks, dry erase markers, funny Christmas ornaments or sentimental.
With all of that said, something as simple as filling all of your family’s shoes with gold chocolate coins or your child’s favorite treat is just as special. Please join us as some of us continue this tradition and some of us start it as a new one this year. Everyone and all the ways are welcome.
And now, O all-blessed Nicholas,
Never cease praying to Christ our God
For those who honor the festival of your memory
With faith and with love.