Growing up in Wisconsin, December 6th was almost as exciting as Christmas Day. On the night of the 5th, my brother, sister and I would grab our favorite pair of shoes and delicately place them in the living room against the wall.
When we woke up in the morning, our shoes would be filled with candy, books and packages of Pop-Tarts. “Thank you St. Nick!” we’d shout.
The rest of the day tended to be filled with food-centric festivities, with oranges, Hershey kisses and other assorted goods distributed to everyone in our elementary school. When we’d get home, we’d feast on a dinner of Pop-Tarts, unbeknownst to our parents (probably).
When I left home for college, I never knew St. Nick’s Day wasn’t celebrated by other Christmas-observers. So, I’d act as St. Nick for all my university roommates, sneakily putting out their shoes and filling them with treats for them to wake up to in the morning.
Now, for those who have never celebrated the holiday, it can seem a little bizarre. Especially if you wake up to a pair of your favorite boots filled with Kit Kat bars.
So, what is it?
In short, it’s the feast day of St. Nicholas. Traditionally, it’s celebrated as a Christian festival focused on St. Nicholas’ reputation as a bringer of gifts. Here in the U.S., St. Nick’s Day is not observed nationally but tends to be recognized in cities with stronger German, Polish, Belgian and Dutch communities.
As I’ve grown up, I still carry the tradition of St. Nick’s Day wherever I live. From Wisconsin to Iowa to Minnesota to New Hampshire, I’ve celebrated with friends and brought them into the tradition.
I even forced my friends to text me St. Nick’s Day testimonials.
“I had never heard of St. Nick’s Day until I met Lauren. It was charming (and a little funny) to wake up and see all of our shoes lined up with presents inside them. But, I loved it.”
— Danielle C., Missouri
“I really don’t understand St. Nick’s Day but Lauren gets really excited about it.”
— Craig B., New Hampshire
“I had only received St. Nick’s presents as a child from St. Nick (aka, my parents) until I lived with Lauren. An unexpected and fun tradition to continue!”
— Megan T., Minnesota
“Eh? What about it?”
— Tim N., New Hampshire
— Molly M., New Hampshire
“I had never celebrated St. Nick’s Day until I met Lauren in college. She was so excited about it that it made me want to be excited about it. The beginning of winter is always difficult, with the cold weather and the end of semester stress, it was a timely reminder to enjoy the small things. Now that college is over St. Nick’s Day mostly acts as a reminder of Lauren. And that’s pretty nice I think. Even without the candy.”
— Steph S., Iowa
While the day originates from religious ideologies, for me, it has turned into a day of giving. Before the stress of celebrating traditional December holidays, St. Nick’s Day can deliver a quick breath of kindness.
Plus, if this is a tradition you choose to start with your friends and family, you can really confuse people who have no idea what St. Nick’s Day is. Also, presents.
Happy St. Nick’s Day!