St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra in Lycia (now part of Turkey). He was very generous and always gave to the poor and needy. It was said that he saved three girls from being put into slavery by giving them money in their stockings that were hanging to dry to pay their father’s debts. He did this and many other kind acts anonymously. He is the patron saint of children and bakers.
In Germany there is a custom of leaving your shoes out the night before the feast of St. Nicholas (December 5th) in hopes that he will leave some goodies in your shoes. It is said that during the night Sankt Nikolaus goes from house to house carrying a book in which all the children’s deeds are written. If they have been good, he fills their shoe with fruits, nuts and candies. If they have been naughty he leaves potatoes, coal or twigs. This is one of the traditions our family has been following for years. Here’s a picture of all the kids’ shoes with treat bags of chocolate gold coins, little chocolate Santas and candy canes left by St. Nicholas. Charlie (our elf) also left a new book, The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving, for the kids to read.Charlie the elf left a couple other good books about St. Nicholas in previous years such as The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale and The Saint Who Became Santa Claus for the kids to read. We also like the Veggie Tales video St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving.
We will make some traditional St. Nicholas Day cookies. My favorite are Speculaas cookies (a German spice cookie). I really need to get a St. Nicholas cookie mold one of these days! And Krabeli which are Swiss Springerle cookies. I use my special Springerle rolling pin to make them:
Many of our current Christmas/Santa traditions are based upon stories of St. Nicholas. You can read more stories and legends about St. Nicholas and ways to celebrate St. Nicholas Day here.