We adopted the German tradition of St Nicholas Day when the children were very young and we’ve kept the tradition alive each year, tweaking, and sometimes changing up the activities we like to do, even altering the date to suit our schedule (which means holding it on the weekend closest to December 6th so we have daddy home to celebrate with).
We’ve quite enjoyed making a hoopla about this Saint. We always made a point of finding picture books on the real St. Nicholas to read on this special day. He was said to have had the spiritual gift of mercy, always looking for ways to give to the needy and hungry, and always on the condition that his identity be kept secret. The story we’ve all come to know is of Nicholas helping his friend, a wealthy shipping merchant, who ended up losing all his cargo in a shipwreck during a storm. The merchant’s daughters needed dowries to be wed, and Nicholas secretly came to the rescue by tossing gold coins through the window, of which some fell into the stockings hanging to dry.
It is also said that Nicholas loved to bake bread with sugar and exotic spices to hand out to the children in the village, rather like our gingerbreads we’ve all come to love consuming during the Christmas season. So, we make a point of adding a gingerbread to the childrens’ stockings because of this story of St Nicholas and his baking for the children.
And if anyone is wondering, why December 6th? It marks the Saint’s day of death, and has become a celebrated occasion to remember this gift giver.
So we adopted the tradition of decorating our Christmas tree the night before, and hanging stockings on December 5th (though I’m told by my German and Dutch friends it’s a wooden shoe), left bulging with our gift giving for our sweet ones to open on the morn of December 6th. And always we add a Loonie (our Canadian coin version of a dollar bill, with yes, you’ve got it, a Loon bird on the front). We dedicate the day to making some St Nicholas related crafts (like the one above with apples and marshmallows–in case you’re wondering, yes, those are supposed to represent St Nicholas for the young at heart), and writing cards and preparing parcels.
When we lived south of Nashville, we were gifted with some crazy beautiful Decembers, and were able to sit outside on the deck painting Christmas cards prior to the festive St Nicholas Day, using the day itself to write the already scanned and printed Christmas cards. We found this was one way of tying in our giving to others through card writing and special messages. It’s also a great time to have the children pick out food items to donate to a local food bank or through your local supermarket.
And just so you don’t feel like things run ever so smoothly in our plans, I added the stressed out youngest picture tortured by having to do copy work on her set of cards on this special occasion day.