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December 6, St. Nicholas Day - Traditions From Around the World

St. Nicholas Day is a beloved festivity not only among children, but everyone who likes giving and getting gifts. This unique day is celebrated at the beginning of December, and the customs related to it differ depending on the country and the region. Interestingly enough, each country has its own version of St. Nick, as well as his helpers who follow him. Check when and how St. Nicholas Day is celebrated. Here are the best fun facts about St. Nick's Day and traditions from around the world.

December 6, St. Nicholas Day - Traditions From Around the World

When is St. Nicholas Day celebrated?

Saint Nick Day, or St. Nicholas Feast Day is a holiday celebrated mainly in Europe. The particular date of this festivity depends on a particular country. It’s typically December 5 or 6 in the Western Europe. Most countries of the Eastern Europe celebrate this day later, on December 19. It results from the fact that the Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar.

When is St. Nicholas Day celebrated?

Why is St. Nicholas Feast Day celebrated?

St. Nicholas Day has its roots originating in the cult of a Christian saint, Nicholas of Myra, also known as Nicholas Wonderworker. This figure has been revered as early as the 9th century. December 6 is the traditional date of his death, as well as the memorial of this saint in the Catholic Church. The cult of St. Nicholas has grown so much that for many years the day of his remembrance had the status of an important feast – treated similarly to Christmas or All Hallows’ Day.

The character of St. Nicholas is associated with multiple legends that circled around people since as early as the Middle Ages. Even back then, St. Nicholas Feast Day was celebrated on December 6, although in other forms than nowadays. Stage plays for children and the general public were particularly popular at the time. They focused on the charitable work of St. Nicholas. Thanks to them, the tradition of giving gifts to each other was popularized.

St. Nick Day and its origins – who was Saint Nicholas?

St. Nicholas was a mysterious figure since his very beginning. Although he’s one of the most recognizable character in the contemporary world, the facts about his life aren’t too extensive. The first mentions of him come from two centuries after his death!

The man probably lived between the 3rd and the 4th century AD. He was a bishop of Myra, a town located in contemporary Turkey. According to legend, he was known as Nicholas Wonderworker, who helped poor and needy by performing miracles or giving gifts.

Legend also says that St. Nicholas helped three sisters in need by giving them pouches full of gold, and saved three soldiers from death penalty. As stated in another story, the saint has showed himself to sailors during a storm and saved them from a certain death. For this reason, St. Nicholas is a patron of sailors in Greece.

Legends and tales that grew around saint Nicholas initiated the feast known as St. Nicholas Day. After the fashion of his generosity, people give each other gifts and show kindness.

St. Nick Day and its origins – who was Saint Nicholas?

December 6, or St. Nick Day – interesting traditions around the world

St. Nicholas Day is a feast celebrated mostly by children. Each year, they wait for various forms of gifts. But each country celebrates December 6 differently.

St. Nicholas Day in Poland

St. Nick Day in Poland is celebrated on December 6. Children receive gifts in the morning, finding them in various places – under the pillow, in shoes, and sometimes in a stocking. Many schools, workplaces, and groups of friends celebrate an exchange of gifts (similar to secret Santa). Willing participants draw names of someone who they are supposed to gift. It’s an opportunity for social integration, thanks to which any responsibilities are treated more casually than normal.

St. Nick Day gifts are typically given by Santa accompanied by his “helpers”
Gwiazdor, angels, snowflakes, dwarves, and other fairy-tale characters.

How is St. Nicholas Day celebrated in Germany?

St. Nick Day is known in Germany as der Nikolaustag. It’s a big gift-giving day. St. Nicholas appears in his bishop clothes in the evening, followed by his helpers. The latter look like intimidating villains. They have various names – Knecht Rupert, Krampus, Klaubauf, Ruhklas are only some of the figures appearing in various regions on St. Nick’s Day.

German Santa Claus asks children about their behavior before giving them gifts. Sometimes, the even turns into a sort of talent show, in which children recite rhymes, sing songs and show off other skills. In some regions of Germany, children prepare for December 6 – they tidy their rooms, leave their shoes in front of fireplaces or entrances, and write letters to Santa – everything to receive a gift in the morning.

How is St. Nicholas Day celebrated in Germany?

St. Nick Day in France

December 6 in France is celebrated only in some regions St. Nicholas is a patron of. Gifts are carried not by Santa, but by… a donkey accompanying the saint. Typical traditional St. Nick Day gifts in France include sweets, dried fruits, chocolate, and gingerbread cookies shaped like Santa.

A day before December 6, children leave shoes, a beverage for Santa and carrots for the donkey at their doorsteps.

When is Saint Nicholas Day in Portugal?

Saint Nicholas is a highly important figure to Portuguese students – but only in one city, Guimarães. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated in the form of a festival known as Nicolinas. The even lasts from November 29 to December 7. That’s when religious ceremonies are held, along with street parades and marches. Every local restaurant is filled with guests. The celebrations are accompanied by the sound of drums which play festive rhythms. St. Nick Day is not celebrated in other regions of Portugal.

St. Nicholas Day in the United States

St. Nicholas Day in the United States isn’t known well across the whole country. But December 6 is celebrated in places of strong German roots, such as Cincinnati, Texas, and Milwaukee. Celebrations are also observed in other communities, e.g., among Polish, Dutch and Belgian minorities.

St. Nicholas Day traditions involve simply giving small gifts to each other, or giving presents to children to shoes, stockings, or under pillows.

Feast of Saint Nicholas in Belgium

Some countries celebrate St. Nicholas Day earlier – in Belgium, but also in the Netherlands, the feast falls not on December 6, but 5. Belgian Santa Claus known as Sinterklaas comes not in sleigh, but on a ship – a steamboat from Spain. Just like in Germany, his helper might give you chills. According to the legend, he’s a butcher from a story, or the grim Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The character has black skin and wears a black wig, and his clothing is very colorful. He gives sticks, coal or beetroots to naughty children.

Feast of Saint Nicholas in Belgium

📍 What are the origins of St. Nicholas Day?

St. Nick Day is a holiday celebrated on December 6 since the Middle Ages. Thanks to the popularity of Saint Nicholas of Myra, people would depict stories about him in plays. In time, the custom of gift giving was created, and it stayed until today.

📍 What is St. Nicholas Day?

The festivity known as St. Nick Day is celebrated on December 6. That's when people give small gifts to each other. Children write letters to Santa Claus to receive gifts. Many countries celebrate various customs on December 6, such as festivals and marches walked on streets.

📍 Who brings gifts on December 6?

In many countries, gifts are brought by St. Nicholas on December 6. A lot depends on the region where the feast is celebrated. In Germany, it is known as Nikolaustag, in France gifts are brought by a donkey. In Belgium, gifts are given by Sinterklaas, who travels on a ship from Spain.

📍 How is St. Nicholas Day celebrated?

St. Nick Day is celebrated in different ways – depending on the country and region. In many countries, gifts are given by Santa Claus or his equivalent - _Gwiazdor_ or _Ruhklas._ Sometimes, children have to sing a song or recite a poem before getting a present.