Today, December 6, is St. Nicholas Day. (Eastern Christians celebrate on the 19th.) In most of Europe, this is a religious festival, the feast day of St. Nicholas. However, Dutch kids will leave out clogs to receive candy and money, and many other kids will leave out shoes for the same purpose. It’s rather like the Christmas stockings we hang, in fact. Of course, there’s a tradition of leaving out carrots and cookies—though it’s not for reindeer, it’s for the saint’s horse.
For Europeans, having this earlier celebration brings the holiday season to life. Just one day before the second Sunday in Advent, it’s a chance to come together, celebrate, and honor one of the seasonal saints. St. Nicholas is, of course, the root of Santa Claus (which was derived from the Dutch SinterKlaas) and Father Christmas.
The tradition varies from country to country, but throughout, St. Nicholas is revered as a protector of children and bringer of gifts. There is likely to be a religious service, but you can also expect storytelling, parades and events for children. This might include someone dressed up as St. Nicholas, delivering the gifts in person!
Ireland claims the body of the original St. Nicholas (Naoṁ Nioclás), but the celebration there doesn’t go much beyond celebrating his saint’s day. Bari in Italy claims that he’s buried there, instead, and holds St. Nicholas as its patron.
Naughty kids don’t have to just worry about getting coal in their shoes; they have to worry about being put in a sack and whisked off to Spain by Black Pete, St. Nicholas’ assistant!
Does your family celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day? Do you have any particular traditions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. And don’t forget that we serve several European countries with flower delivery, so if you want to be remembered at this time, we have plenty of holiday flowers for you.