For kids, the entire month of December is filled with glee and delight in preparation for the holidays. Instead of dreading the chaotic season, embrace it and create some new family traditions.
Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day, which is always on Dec. 6 in the United States. The tradition calls for children to leave their empty shoes out in front of their bedrooms or the fireplace on the evening of Dec. 5. Then St. Nicholas visits overnight and fills them with specials candies, treats and small gifts.
Historically, the legendary figure of St. Nicholas is derived from Nicholas of Myra, who was a bishop in 4th century Greece. He had a reputation for putting coins into other people’s shoes.
When Europeans immigrated to the United States, many German, Polish, Belgian and Dutch communities brought the tradition of St. Nicholas to America.
Ideas for gifts could be chocolate or real coins, a small toy, new socks, favorite candy, a deck of cards or small game. The items should be able to fit inside the shoe and are meant to be just a small token.
Before St. Nicholas graduated to flying reindeer, he was known to ride a donkey. Another fun part of this tradition is for kids to leave carrots or hay in their shoes for St. Nicholas’ donkey to eat.
For your littlest believers, St. Nicholas Day can be a good behavior check-in for Santa Claus. If kids have been nice, it’s a positive sign when St. Nicholas leaves treats behind, signaling that they are on the “good list.” If they continue to be nice, he will return with a sack full of toys on Christmas Eve.
For older non-believers or for those who don’t celebrate Christmas, St. Nicholas Day is still a great time to learn about other cultures and how the holiday is celebrated differently around the world.
For example, in Ukraine, children who have been good wait for St. Nicholas to put a present under their pillows. If they have behaved badly, they could instead find a twig or piece of coal.
In the Netherlands, Dutch children leave their clogs filled with hay and hope it is replaced with small gifts that have humorous rhymes written on their tags.
If your family celebrates with an advent calendar, this is also a great activity for the sixth day of the month.
So on the eve of Dec. 5, make sure those empty shoes are out and ready to be filled!