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Monday, November 30, 2009

Mystic Monday

St. Nick's Day
St. Nicholas

In creating the questions for our December guests, I discovered something that I never thought possible, that people don't celebrate St. Nick's Day.

Some of you may be scratching your head wondering what the heck I'm talking about. I'll clarify by saying that I do not mean Christmas. What I am talking about is a separate holiday altogether.

Since before I was born, St. Nick's Day has been celebrated annually on December 6th. This is a celebration in remembrance of the man named, Nicholas of Myra. He was a saint and Bishop of Myra (Demre, in Lycia, part of modern-day Turkey). Please see this wiki page for more information about Nicholas of Myra.

The biggest thing that he is known for is leaving gifts in shoes of people who left them outside their homes. Through time, the shoes evolved into stockings, which you'll note were "hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there," in The Night Before Christmas.

Even though the idea of Santa Claus has evolved from St. Nicholas, he is considered to be separate from the jolly red man.

Another interesting note that you'll learn from the wiki page, is that this day is celebrated throughout most of Wisconsin; in Cleveland and Cincinnati, OH; and St. Louis, MO; but it is celebrated outside the U.S. According to another St. Nick's website,, in Germany, children put their shoes outside their bedroom before going to bed on the night of December 5th and in the Netherlands, children put their shoes in front of the fireplace. However, I was not aware how unknown this holiday is in the U.S. until Gracen was confused by my question. It honestly never occurred to me that this was not a widely celebrated holiday event.

It is rumored on this day that naughty children would find coal in their stockings and good children will find treats. The treats do not have to be big ticket items, but usually chocolate coins and other candy goodies. Over time, some parents have opted for larger ticket items for the stocking.

The point of this holiday is to remember the kindness that Nicholas of Myra had shown to the less fortunate. However, I feel that in recent years this holiday has become almost too commercialized in the stores, but that's just my opinion.

Celebrating St. Nick's Day is a tradition that can be started at any age and can continue throughout adulthood. I still receive St. Nick's gifts from my mother and now my mother-in-law. Nothing big, usually candy or sometimes little practical items.

By this point, some of you may be wondering how/why is St. Nick different than Santa Claus? Well, the overall point is that the current, secularized version of Santa is more about gift giving and less about the saint himself. Yes, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, but the true meaning of St. Nick does get lost, or is lost, to many people.

Besides the above mentioned websites, there is also an actual website, created by the St. Nicholas Society (which is where the above image came from) devoted specifically to increasing awareness of St. Nicholas and the true meaning of him. Gift-giving is acceptable (at both times of the year), but the idea is to dial it down and try to remember the kind man, Nicholas of Myra, and all the good that he did.

In case you're wondering why it's celebrated on December 5th, it's because that was the day he died in 343 AD.

I'm curious, how many of you out there celebrate St. Nick's Day? How long has the tradition been going on in your family?

3 Moonbeams (comments):

Molly Daniels said...

I HAD heard of the German and Dutch traditions; however, I did NOT know it was a separate celebration, or that it was also celebrated here in the States:)

However, we have a nice tradition in our family celebrated anywhere from the 6th to the oldest son's birthday party:)(Born on the 8th) Maybe this year I ought to make him leave his shoes outside, heh heh heh:)

Molly Daniels said...

BTW, congrats to Gracen on her fantastic 65K Nano 'win'!!!

Anonymous said...

I had heard about St. Nick's Day but thought it was only celebrated in Europe. How nice it would be to bring it to the states. I may start it with my family.