December 6th is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, 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.

St. Nicholas of Myra is a major saint in many places in Europe, and one of the old Christian traditions surrounding his 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 them with special fruits, candies, and other small gifts and treats.

Read A Prayer to St. Nicholas 

This tradition grew from the story of when St. Nicholas threw bags of dowry money, either through a window or down a chimney, into the home of an impoverished family to rescue their daughters from being sold into slavery.

Filling shoes with toys and treats for St. Nicholas' Day

While Catholics in America aren’t as big on celebrating this feast day with their children, more and more American Catholic families are adopting St. Nicholas Day as a special Advent family tradition, like this family here and here.

Stuffing kid's shoes with toys and treats for St. Nicholas Day

Ideas to include in your children’s shoes are bags of chocolate candy coins, a small toy, new socks, a tangerine, and inexpensive religious items, such as a Christmas ornament, a rosary, saint bracelet, and prayer cards. You can find St. Nicholas Catholic gifts here.  You can also include candy canes which symbolize a shepherd’s staff, and even have a little fun by re-shaping them into a bishop’s crosier (see below).

Another cute part of this tradition is for kids to leave carrots or hay in their shoes overnight 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 in the morning.

Yes . . . St. Nicholas was known to ride a donkey laden with gifts for children before he graduated to flying reindeer!

St. Nicholas with his donkey carrying gifts for children.

St. Nicholas with his donkey carrying gifts for children.

St. Therese of Lisieux describes this tradition in her home in France as a small child and recounts how much she loved it. However, for her family this happened not on St. Nicholas 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

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.

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.

Have fun reading about the variety of some of these stories here as families share their own St. Nicholas day traditions past and present.

BLESSING OF THE CANDY CANES ON ST. NICHOLAS DAY

How to shape candy canes into a bishop's crozier for St. Nicholas Day

How to shape candy canes into a bishop’s crozier for St. Nicholas Day (click)

Another tradition that’s becoming fun to do with small children is the St. Nicholas Day Blessing of the Candy Canes. The prayer below is a beautiful reflection of Catholic faith.

St. Nicholas Day Candy Cane Blessing Prayer

Good St. Nicholas, we honor you
on this your holy feast day.
We rejoice that you are the patron saint
and the holy symbol of joy
for many peoples of many lands.

Come, great-hearted saint,
and be our patron and companion
as we, once again, prepare our homes and hearts
for the great feast of Christmas,
the birth of the Eternal Blessing, Jesus Christ.

May these sweets, these candy canes,
be a sign of Advent joy for us.
May these candy canes,
shaped just like your Bishop’s staff,
be for us a sign of your benevolent care.

We rejoice that you are the holy bringer of gifts
and that so many have been delighted
through your great generosity.
Help us to be as generous of heart.

Wherever these candy canes are hung,
on tree or wall or door,
may they carry with them
the bright blessing of God.
May all who shall taste them
experience the joy of God
upon their tongues and in their hearts.

We ask God, now, to bless
these your brightly striped sweets
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A popular Advent tradition in Europe is children awaking on December 6th to find treats and toys stuffed in their shoes for St. Nicholas' Day.

This article was originally published in December 2012 and updated in 2015. ©2012-2015 The Catholic Company.

Related Post

Comments

  1. Sue says

    Being of Slovenian descent – we always had this tradition growing up. December 6th was the feast of St. Nicholas – we called him Miklavž (pronounced mi-klowzh). He was always accompanied by the devil (Krampusz) (who he had under control by keeping him on a chain so he couldn’t hurt the boys and girls) and sometimes an angel. We would put our shoes out by the front door at night on December 5th. Would we get a willow switch in our shoe (if we were bad) or get a shoe full of candy? Then we heard the dreaded chain banging outside – getting closer and closer and we knew he was coming. We would crouch down and hope the devil wouldn’t knock on our door, but he always did and my mom would tell him to go away. We’d open the door and were usually disappointed to see a golden stick in our shoe (cuz lets face it – kids are never 100% good!) Then we would promise to be good and say a prayer and beg Miklavž to come back. We’d hear footsteps at the front door and chains in the distance. We’d wait a few minutes until my mom looked out the window to make sure the coast was clear – then we’d open the door and see our shoes FULL of chocolates and candy and sometimes some coins. My Dad always walked into the house after Miklavž was gone – and we told him all about what happened. It’s funny how he was never in the house at time. 😉
    Great memories and a wonderful tradition! Thanks Mom and Dad!

  2. says

    Thank you for promoting the beautiful traditions and saints of our Catholic Faith. I love to share your posts on my site. God bless.

  3. says

    Then we would promise to be good and say a prayer and beg Miklavž to come back. We’d hear footsteps at the front door and chains in the distance. We’d wait a few minutes until my mom looked out the window to make sure the coast was clear – then we’d open the door and see our shoes FULL of chocolates and candy and sometimes some coins. My Dad always walked into the house after Miklavž was gone – and we told him all about what happened. It’s funny how he was never in the house at time. 😉
    Great memories and a wonderful tradition! Thanks Mom and Dad!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th century bishop famous for his generosity to the poor and protection of the wronged. He was a miracle worker, most known for appearing to sailors caught in a storm at sea and raising three young boys from the dead. He is the patron saint of a great number causes, professions, cities, and countries; most notably he is the patron saint of children, sailors, prisoners, and maidens seeking to marry. Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands have the custom of making him the secret giver of gifts to children on his feast day; in the U.S. and some other countries he has become identified with Santa Claus who distributes gifts to children on Christmas Eve. His relics are still preserved in the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Italy. On his feast day miraculous myrrh is collected from his relics and sent all over the world. Saint Nicholas’ feast day is December 6th. Read St. Nicholas and Your Shoes! A St. Nicholas Day Tradition. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *