December 6 is the feast day of St. Nicholas, which appropriately falls during the Advent season. This feast day is an especially exciting one for children as they count down the days on their Advent calendars in anticipation of Christmas day.
One of the old Christian traditions surrounding St. Nicholas’ feast day is for kids to leave their shoes out overnight in front of the fireplace, on the windowsill, or outside their bedroom door so that St. Nicholas can fill their shoes with special fruits, candies, and other small gifts and treats.
Another cute part of this tradition is for kids to leave carrots or hay in their shoes for St. Nicholas’ donkey to eat. St. Nicholas takes the hay and carrots for his donkey and replaces them with small gifts and treats for the children.
St. Therese of Lisieux describes this tradition in her home as a small child and recounts how much she loved it. However, for her family this happened not on St. Nicholas’ feast day but on Christmas Eve (similar to our American tradition of hanging the stockings by the fireplace).
“I knew that when we reached home after Midnight Mass I should find my shoes in the chimney-corner, filled with presents, just as when I was a little child . . . Papa, too, liked to watch my enjoyment and hear my cries of delight at each fresh surprise that came from the magic shoes, and his pleasure added to mine.” ~ St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul
Continuing this Advent tradition in your own home is a great way to teach your children to venerate the saints and to deepen their knowledge of and love for the Christian faith. St. Nicholas feast day traditions vary widely from country to country, but they all carry the same theme of small gifts and treats left in either shoes or stockings. Have fun reading about the variety of some of these stories here as families share their own St. Nicholas day traditions past and present.