A Visit from St Nicholas

At this time of year, there are saints galore being celebrated in German tradition: first St Martin, then St Barbara, and today on the 6th December we are celebrating St Nicholas. There are many legends surrounding St Nicholas, who lived in the 3rd to 4th century AD and was Bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey. He is the patron saint of children. One story has it that a father who had three daughters wanted to force his eldest to work as a prostitute, as he could not afford to care for them all. When Nicholas heard this he came by in the dead of the night and threw gifts of gold through the girls’ windows.

In Germany, children (and grown-ups) put out their shoes on the eve of St Nicholas Day – much like hanging out stockings on Christmas Eve elsewhere in the world. It’s probably the only day in the year that my boys will voluntarily clean their shoes, haha. St Nicholas won’t necessarily leave you gifts of gold, but if you’ve been good he might leave you sweets, nuts, fruit or other small gifts. However, if you’ve been naughty, you might find a birch rod in your shoe instead! Luckily, the boys have managed to dodge the rod again this year and found their shoes full of goodies this morning.

In Germany, cashiers in shops will often wish you a “Happy St Nicholas Day”, and a couple of local shops when we lived in Berlin would even hand out little chocolates to customers. The boys always got a visit from St Nicholas at nursery too. Often he would have just left some treats overnight, but sometimes St Nicholas himself came by to say hello to the children. Increasingly, you get St Nicholas dressed like Santa, but traditionally he would be wearing a  long red cape or chasuble over a white bishop’s alb, a red stole, and a red bishop’s hat known as a mitre. Sometimes he would be carrying a long golden staff.

Did any of you get a visit from St Nicholas last night? Please feel free to share in the comments.

9 Comments on A Visit from St Nicholas

  1. Rebecca
    6 December 2019 at 10:50 am (10 months ago)

    Awww this is so adorable. I love hearing of others traditions around this time of year.

  2. Rochelle
    6 December 2019 at 11:09 am (10 months ago)

    I love all the different traditions of the Christmas period. It makes me a little sad when when they begin to merge together -I’m fighting a losing battle to get my kids to say ‘Father Christmas’ rather than Santa! But it is a good excuse to share all those fascinating (and occasionally gruesome) stories behind the traditions. I like the one about St Nick – I take it the gold landed in the girls’ shoes?

  3. Emma Faith
    7 December 2019 at 7:58 am (10 months ago)

    This is so lovely, its so nice to hear how other countries celebrate this time of year

  4. Lyndsey O'Halloran
    7 December 2019 at 10:01 am (10 months ago)

    This is such a fun idea. We try to tell Erin that story of St. Nicholas… without the prostitute part haha!

  5. Sabina Green
    7 December 2019 at 11:54 am (10 months ago)

    Ahhh what a lovely tradition. I have read about this before and thought that it is such a great thing for the kids.

  6. Sarah Howe
    7 December 2019 at 8:05 pm (10 months ago)

    I love all these traditions and learning about them. Really interesting and I bet the children were so excited! It’s really feeling festive now.

  7. Melanie
    9 December 2019 at 12:02 am (10 months ago)

    I love this. I like how you have gone back to the true traditional acts of Christmas x

  8. Laura Schwormstedt
    11 December 2019 at 9:14 pm (10 months ago)

    I love this tradition – my youngest goes to a german inspired kindergarten and they celebrate this and put little treats in their slippers this year

    Laura x

  9. Jeanette
    21 June 2020 at 3:01 am (3 months ago)

    Memories of my childhood! We were an American Military family in Germany during the 60s & 70s. We would (my brothers and sister) put out our shoes and wait for St Nichols. Some years we had switches and candy; sometimes all candy. St Nichols would visit the American elementary schools and bring treats on December 6th. Sometimes a Master Chimney Sweeper would join him…they are considered Good Luck. Especially if you touch one.


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