Saint Nicholas Day

Saint Nicholas Day Quick Facts - US

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2023 DateDecember 6, 2023
2024 DateDecember 6, 2024

Saint Nicholas Day

Saint Nicholas Day in
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Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated to honor the good deeds and miracles of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, the needy, and sailors. This observance encourages acts of charity, gift-giving, and goodwill, which are often associated with the figure of Santa Claus. The customs and traditions surrounding this festival differ in various countries, but the spirit of generosity and compassion unites them all.

The roots of Saint Nicholas Day can be traced back to the life of Saint Nicholas of Myra, now modern-day Turkey, during the fourth century. In the United States, this festival is commonly celebrated by those of European descent, especially people of Dutch, Belgian, and German heritage. American awareness of the Saint Nicholas traditions was popularized in the 19th century through literature, such as Washington Irving's Knickerbocker's History of New York and Clement Clarke Moore's poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, which depicted the saint as a plump, jolly gift-bringer.

Saint Nicholas Day is observed in several ways, depending on regional and family customs. Families may set out shoes or stockings overnight, which are then filled with small gifts, candies, and fruits on Saint Nicholas Day. Community events like parades and fairs often take place, and special St. Nicholas-themed foods and baked goods are enjoyed, such as gingerbread, speculaas cookies, and traditional Dutch pastries. Saint Nicholas Day is observed annually on December 6th.

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Saint Nicholas Day facts

  • Saint Nicholas was born 280 A.D in Patara Lycia, which is modern-day Turkey. He devoted himself to others, even using his inheritance to help the poor and sick.
  • The poem, An Account of a Visit From Saint Nicholas, written in 1820 by Clement Clarke Moore, describes Saint Nicholas as a jolly heavy set man who would come down chimneys and leave gifts for children. This would be the inspiration for Santa Claus.
  • A popular tradition adopted by Christmas is the act of leaving one’s shoes outside their door. Stockings hung on a fireplace mantel are also common. During the night, Saint Nicholas comes. In the morning, those shoes and stockings are found full of gifts and treats.
  • The name "Santa Claus" was first used in the American press in 1773, and it is derived from the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, which is "Sinterklaas".

Top things to do in the US for Saint Nicholas Day

  • Be kind and charitable. As a patron saint, Saint Nicholas was very generous and was well known for giving to others.
  • Continue the German tradition of baking Stutenkerl. Stutenkerl is a German pastry made from sweet, leavened dough. It is shaped in the form of a man, a reference to Saint Nicholas.
  • Read a story about Saint Nicholas. We suggest The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale.
  • Whip up a batch of traditional Saint Nicholas Day cookies like Speculaas or gingerbread cookies shaped like the saint himself. This activity can be a fun way to get the whole family involved.

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