Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Traditions of St. Nicholas Live On

Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas, who was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.

In grade school we learned about how Nicholas was very generous to a poor man in his diocese who had three beautiful daughters. The man couldn't provide money for his daughters to marry and was worried they would be forced into a life of sin. Nicholas secretly gave the man bags of gold to enable the daughters to be married. As the legend of the generosity of Nicholas grew, the custom evolved of gift-giving on the saint’s feast day. In many countries, like America, he became known as Santa Claus.

When I was young we put our shoes out so St.Nicholas could leave treats inside. A few other customs we followed was we always found oranges and candy canes in our stockings on Christmas morning, and of course before Christmas we donated canned goods for the needy--which one year was us.

In the Bavarian area of Germany, where my husband grew up, the custom was a bit different. Sankt Nikolaus day was a holiday, with a parade in the city and the children got visited. If you were good, you got visited by St. Nikolaus. If you were bad, Ruprecht came a knocking on your door to box your ears. Guess which one visited my hubby most years?

In the early and mid 1980s, when I lived and worked in Germany, the local nationals (or LNs as we called them) I worked with, got St. Nicholas day off, but the day before we all had a luncheon feast at work. On December 5th The LNs stayed late after we left. The next morning the desks of the Americans (or the Amis as they called us) had special treats on them. Of course, the day before Thanksgiving, we treated them to a feast. It was a nice exchange of customs.

I am fascinated by customs of other countries and like traditions and try to instill in my grandchildren a sense of the past.

My granddaughter says my husband and I are "old school," which I consider a compliment. But, even though our grandkiddos are teenagers now, I know their shoes will be outside their bedroom doors this evening. One of them will also make sure Harley, our black Lab, will get a treat. So, it's a trip to the store today to get some goodies for them all.

For the past two weekends one of my grandkids has helped carry gifts from the giving tree in church to the parish center after Mass. I'm hoping that by volunteering even in a small way they will understand that Christmas is more about giving than receiving.

Here's a link to a site with customs about St. Nicholas. How about you? Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day or any other feasts or have family traditions during the Advent or Christmas season? Cookie exchanges, maybe or Secret Santas?


  1. What a nice tale of traditions...and to hear that you are keeping them. I don't believe we have many left oursleves. I miss them. Hubby never really had any in the first place. Nice to learn about yours!

  2. It was fascinating to hear about the traditions that you and your husband have.

    The only thing that comes close--in our family--is a wooden advent "calendar" with drawers. For the past few years, I have filled up the little drawers with goodies and toys for my granddaughter, who thoroughly enjoys waking up every morning and discovering what's waiting for her.

  3. Very nice. Hmmm, I'm trying to create new traditions, however, none of them have stuck yet!

  4. With my parents it was hit and miss (mostly miss) on St Nicholas. Therefore I never really did the St Nicholas thing with my kids either. It is a lovely custom, though.

    Critter Alley

  5. Hi Claudia,

    Hi Sioux,
    The advent calendars are a lot of fun for kids. We had them when our kids were young.

    Hi Lynn,
    Keep on trying.

    Hi Pat,
    It's a lovely custom, but it can be expensive--and also fattening because when I buy their candy I have to buy some for me.


  6. We started doing a Christmas puzzle every year, when my son was small, that I'd glue together and we'd hang them with the other Christmas decorations. There are now so many I've had to cull out the ones getting too tattered. I've picked up this year's puzzle and we'll get it set up as soon as L. gets home from college!

  7. Hi Sally,
    Your Christmas puzzle sounds like a great tradition.

  8. I think it is nice that you are carrying on the old traditions. Speaking of traditions, I'm giving away a copy of the book, Christmas Traditions, over on my blog. You and your readers are welcome to come over and enter the give a way. It is filled with stories of many family traditions.

  9. Hi Janet,
    Thanks for the invite. I'll check it out.


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