Happy St. Nicholas Day!

December 6th is St. Nicholas Day, and when I was a child it was always a fun day.

On December 5th, before going to bed, my brothers and sisters and I would all place one of our shoes outside the door to our bedroom. Well, it could be a shoe, a slipper, or even a boot. My brothers seemed to think if they put out a boot, they’d get more from St. Nicholas. That never worked, but it didn’t stop them from trying!

All of us were allowed to put a little note to St. Nick in our shoe. I never passed up the chance to let him know how much I loved him for coming to our house. I never passed up the chance to tell him what I wanted for Christmas either!

When we were asleep, St. Nicholas would come and collect our notes, and leave us treats in all the shoes (or boots as the case may be). Just little things; a few pieces of candy and maybe a small toy. We were always amazed that he was so quiet, no one ever woke up or saw him.

At the breakfast table, we’d all compare our treats and talk about whether anyone heard anything. Usually the youngest sibling was the one to swear he or she heard footsteps. I’m sure my parents had plenty of giggles listening to us.

I passed this tradition to my own family when I got married. My husband had never heard of it, so it was fun to explain it. When he asked how the tradition got started, and I had to admit that I didn’t know. So I did a little investigating.

St. Nicholas Day is a widely celebrated holiday in the Netherlands. All the children leave their shoes out overnight, hoping for a visit from St. Nicholas. Some will leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping he will exchange it for a little gift. The Dutch brought this tradition of "Sinter Klaas" to America in the 1700's. 

The Dutch children hope that St. Nicholas would reward them with a piece of fruit or some nuts. Hmmm. Makes me glad I live in the U.S.A.. I’d much prefer a Pez dispenser to walnuts! If you were a ‘bad child’ you might get a lump of coal in your shoe. (I left one for my husband once as a joke!)

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and sailors. He is also the patron saint of Russia and Greece. I wonder if the children of those countries leave their shoes for him?

Have you ever heard of this tradition, or participate in it at your house?

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