Celebrating St Nicholas Day is a fun and simple way to start the Christmas season off with a focus on Jesus.
Who Was St. Nicholas?
St. Nicholas was born in the 3rd century in what is now the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic, leaving him heir to their fortune. Nicolas dedicated his life to serving God. Following Jesus’ command to “sell what you own and give to the poor,” he used his entire inheritance to help those in need.
Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra while only a young man and suffered imprisonment and exile for his faith under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. After his release he attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.
Eventually the stories and legends of St. Nick transformed into the Santa Claus story that we see today. However, we can still remember the real man and the stories of the great things he did.
December 6th is the anniversary of his death and a day to remember a man who gave his life in service of Jesus Christ. St. Nicholas Day has been celebrated for hundreds of years in varying traditions all over the world.
Why Celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day
When my oldest was just a baby, we decided that we didn’t want to follow the cultural traditions of Santa Claus in our family. This choice wasn’t made mainly out of a desire to avoid something, but because of the Jesus-centered traditions we wanted to build around Christmas.
One of the things we wanted to do was emphasize giving gifts and decrease the emphasis on receiving gifts. Getting presents would still be a fun part of Christmas, just not the central aspect.
That same year that my oldest was a baby I learned about St Nicholas’ Day for the first time. I was immediately interested! Here are some of the benefits I saw (and we still experience) by celebrating St Nicholas’ Day:
- The opportunity to learn about the very real person who inspired the legend of Santa Clause, a person who loved and followed Jesus.
- Being able to start the Advent season (St Nick’s is Dec 6, early in the month) with a focus on giving by modeling after St Nicholas, who was modeling after Jesus.
- Spreading out the Christmas gift giving by moving the stocking tradition (originated from St. Nick’s story) from the 25th to the 6th.
- Doing something fun and unique that could easily be adapted to what I was able to do each year.
We celebrated St. Nicholas’ Day my oldest’s first Christmas season and we’ve been celebrating it ever since!
FAQs about St. Nicholas Day
Is St. Nicholas Day just for Catholics? Nope! It is a more common celebration among Catholics, but learning about church history and people of the faith is something for all denominations!
Can you celebrate St. Nicholas Day and do regular Santa? I don’t see why not, although it might be difficult to make the connection between St Nick and Santa and maintain that Santa is “real.” I would recommend having Santa introduced as a pretend character (along the lines of Mickey Mouse, etc).
Do you have to celebrate in a certain way? While there are some traditional ways of celebrating, they vary widely! You can celebrate however your family chooses.
How can I learn more about St. Nicholas? I highly recommend the St. Nicholas Center website.
Aren’t there some weird, gotta be untrue stories about St. Nicholas? Whenever you have stories of a real person that morph into tall tales and legends, you will have this problem (St. Patrick is another common one!). We focus on the facts (he lived, followed Christ, served others, etc) and take the more elaborate stories with a grain of salt.
So, how do you celebrate? Keep reading to find out!
Celebrating St. Nicholas Day
Every Year Traditions
Over the years, we have done many different things to celebrate on December 6th. However, there are a few things that have been the consistent “bare minimum.”
First thing on our agenda the morning of December 6th is stockings! Moving Christmas morning stockings to St. Nicholas Day has been one of the family’s favorite traditions! It is so fun to receive some little gifts early in the season!
I like to choose inexpensive (but not “cheap”), small gifts that are also meaningful. For instance, I have included gifts that are something the kids can use to create gifts for others or a fun Christmas activity for the month. Check out my list of stocking stuffer ideas in the Steadfast Family Amazon Storefront.
An easy tradition to make the day stand out a little bit is a yummy special breakfast! I took a special treat that my mom often made for Christmas breakfast growing up and I usually make that for St Nicholas Day. However, even something simple like canned cinnamon rolls add a little something special to the morning.
An Act of Service
In honor of St Nick and as a way to start the Christmas season off on a giving note, we usually do some kind of act of service either on St Nicks Day or right around it.
St Nicholas Books and Movie
Over the years I have collected a few picture books and a fun Veggie Tales movie on St Nicholas. I’ll link them below (affiliate links):
Other Ideas for Celebrating
We’ve done other things to celebrate from time to time as the year allowed, here are a few we’ve done and some ideas that sound fun!
Purchase Food for the Local Food Bank
Nicholas was know for his extreme generosity during a time with much famine and poverty. Going shopping for food to donate to the food bank is a great way to remember his legacy, serve Jesus, and help others in your community!
St. Nicholas Day Baskets
One of the things St Nicholas is remembered for doing is secretly placing baskets with grain and food on people’s doorsteps so they wouldn’t go hungry. Therefore, a fun way to remember this story is to fill baskets with food and small treats and leave them on a neighbor or friend’s doorstep. Tuck a St Nicholas Day printable (found in the subscriber resource library, sign up HERE) inside to share about the holiday!
St. Nicholas Day Crafts
Color a St Nick coloring page or do a simple craft to learn more about him. Try the ideas HERE from St Nicolas Center.
St Nick’s Day is a great day to pull out Christmas decorations and get in the holiday spirit! For example: bake Christmas cookies, do a Christmas craft, pull out the Christmas themed toys, start your Christmas devotional – so many options! Some years I have also set up some decorations the night before as a morning surprise.
And So Many More!!
There are as many different ways for celebrating St Nicholas Day as there are families that observe it. For lots more fun ideas, check out my Pinterest board (and follow me there!).
That said, one of the best parts of St Nick’s Day is the ability to keep it simple, yet meaningful. So don’t get overwhelmed! Pick a tradition or two and just give it a try! If you already celebrate, add your celebration to the comments below.
A Fun and Meaningful Tradition
In conclusion, celebrating St Nicholas Day is a fun and simple alternative to Santa that starts the Christmas season off with a focus on giving.
I’d love to know if you celebrate St Nicholas Day or if you are thinking of giving it a try for the first time! Celebrating St Nicholas Day is definitely something we love and we are already looking forward to celebrating again this year.
Be sure to subscribe below so you can grab the St. Nicholas Day printable pack to make your celebration even easier!
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