For those who celebrate Christmas, December can be the most magical time of year for kids and adults alike.
Dec. 25 is the big finale, but half the fun is the season leading up to the big day. From Advent calendars and Elf on the Shelf to decorating the house and visiting Santa at the mall, there’s plenty to do throughout the month to prepare for the holiday. One of the most beloved pre-Christmas traditions is St. Nick’s Day on Dec. 6.
This isn’t a holiday observed by every family who celebrates Christmas, but for those who do, it means children wake up to a special treat in their shoes or Christmas stockings. It also tends to mark the “official” start of the Christmas season for the families who celebrate St. Nick.
Who was St. Nicholas?
The legend of Santa Claus begins with a real saint, St. Nicholas. Born all the way back in the third century, St. Nicholas was known for his generosity to those in need and his love for children, according to the St. Nicholas Center. The name Santa Claus actually comes from St. Nicholas’ Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas. Thanks to St. Nick, the idea of Santa Claus became popular all over the world.
So how did St. Nick become the jolly, round fellow who comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve? You can partly thank Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote a Christmas poem for his daughters called “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” No doubt you know the famous lines: “’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house; Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”
Why is St. Nicholas Day celebrated on Dec. 6?
In the Catholic Church, St. Nick’s feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, which is Dec. 6. The tradition of receiving small gifts from St. Nicholas began with Dutch children, who put out their shoes the night before so St. Nicholas could leave gifts in them.
How is St. Nick’s Day celebrated today? A lot of people keep it old-school and simply leave gifts in children’s shoes or Christmas stockings for them to wake up to in the morning. The St. Nicholas Center is full of other ideas from real families, such as making cookie plates for those who need a pick-me-up, throwing a neighborhood party, opening stockings filled with treats on this date instead of Christmas Day and performing small acts of kindness, to name a few.
There’s no wrong way to celebrate St. Nick, so have fun!