Holiday Traditions: St. Nicholas Day

Did you grow up celebrating St. Nicholas' Day? If so, you know to hang your stockings like this on the eve of Dec. 5th!

St. Nicholas or St. Nick is relatively unknown in most of the United States. He was a Christian Bishop living in the Roman Empire in the early 300s AD. The holiday is a German tradition and only really popular in areas with German heritage, like Milwaukee.  I'd say living here, it's a part of being a Milwaukeean. 

St. Nicholas comes and leaves things for the good kids, the bad kids get a visit from a different creature traveling with St Nick... You can look up Krampus on your own.  The night of St. Nicholas is often referred to as Krampusnacht.

As a German boy myself I grew up hanging my stocking the night of the December 5th, to wake up the 6th with it full.  There was usually always a candy cane, a small toy, gold wrapped chocolate coins and an orange/nectarine.

Why the chocolate coins? If you know the St. Nicholas story, you would know that he was said to have thrown money through an open window of a poor family's home, during the night. The money was said to have landed on their socks and shoes drying by the hearth. St Nick did this secretly without bragging of his generosity.

Now the orange??? On St. Nicholas' Day, oranges or apples often were given. They were to represent the gold St. Nick gave. That is why an orange frequently was put into the toe of a Christmas or St. Nick stocking. (Oranges used to be pricey fruit before the days of improved transportation and considered a real treat.)  When I was a kid we'd visit grandpa and grandma's house for dinner the night of the 5th and I'd be tasked with sneaking into grandpa's room to place Oranges or tangerines in his shoes.

Unlike the Santa visit on Christmas Eve, St. Nick is early in the month so children don't get confused with where St. Nick fits into the nativity story.  Really St. Nicks Day is a "for fun day" to celebrate the early days of advent and remind children the lesson to be learned from St. Nicholas...

 

"Giving is better than receiving"...after all, this is a message we all need to remember every day of the year.


For more on Saint Nicholas himself watch below.

 

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