St. Nicholas Eve is December 5th! Be sure to put your shoes out to see what he will bring!
When I was in elementary school I loved learning about all the international personas of Santa Claus.
The varied forms he takes with different names and visual appearances, were totally enchanting and heightened the magical feeling of Christmastime.
What is St. Nicholas Eve?
In many places in the world, St. Nicholas or Sinterklaas is viewed to be the gift giver during the Advent season.
His feast day, St. Nicholas Day, is December 6th.
On the eve of his day, on December 5, he pays nocturnal visits with his side kick Black Peter (or Zwarte Piet), his alter ego wielding coal for ne’er-do-wells who have not been so nice over the past year.
Children leave their shoes out in the hopes to find small gifts on the morning of December 6th.
The spirit of St. Nicholas Eve and day is one focused on giving over receiving, remembering those less fortunate and that St. Nicholas loved children.
When is St. Nicholas Eve?
December 5 is St Nicholas Eve. On that night children (but I say everyone should join in the fun!) put their shoes out (typically outside but due to voracious squirrels in our ‘hood, we make it an indoor thing) in the hopes of some sweets in the morning.
What Goes in Shoes for St. Nicholas Eve?
Some examples of what one might find in their shoes:
Oranges or tangerines are often found (as well as in Christmas stockings) as they symbolize the gold balls St. Nicholas would throw to the children.
I suspect as well before current day globalization of food, citrus fruits were scarce in winter therefore making them a prized treat.
Candy croziers, or candy canes, are shaped after bishop’s or shepherd’s staffs and are given out as a reminder of the care St. Nicholas had for people.
Gold coins, real or in chocolate, symbolize coins thrown through a window by St. Nicholas to free servant girls.
Additional ideas include:
- Chocolate St. Nicholas figures
- Spiced Speculaas Cookies
- Windmill Speculaas Cookies
- These St. Nicholas cookies even made Oprah’s Favorite List!
Feast of St. Nicholas on St. Nicholas Day (December 6)
December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas Day is the day of the real saint’s death.
Many traditional foods are served. Speculaas, are a special ginger cookie typically done in beautiful molds though does not have to be done so.
St. Nicholas Around the World
The customs and traditions regarding St. Nicholas vary in countries around the world.
To learn more on the specific traditions, this list by country gives specifics on how traditions are celebrated.
Any readers who actively practice this tradition I’d love to hear more about what you do in your family or home!
Originally published: December 5, 2010