On December 6th, many Christians honor Saint Nicholas with a day of celebration. It’s 24 hours devoted to remembering the third-century saint who inspired our modern-day Santa Claus, aka Saint Nick. Religious sources cite his death in the year AD 343 on December 6, but the Roman Catholic Church canonized the bishop into sainthood nearly a century after his death.
St. Nicholas was known for his selfless behavior. He sold all of his possessions to benefit the poor, weak and sickly. Those in the Christan faith see him as an extraordinary example of Christian charity.
On this day of saintly remembrance, many celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas. It’s a time for families to exchange small gifts in honor of Saint Nicholas; a tradition we can trace back hundreds of years.
December 6 – Name Day: Nicholas
Feast days are also celebrated as the Name Day of ordinary individuals who share the moniker of the honored saint. So, of course, December 6 is also “Name Day” for those with the name Nicholas. Those who practice Greek and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, other European and Latin American Catholics and other Christians often celebrate their name days with more fanfare than their own birthdays. So the Nicholas’s of the world have something to be excited about today! In Greek, the greeting is “Xronia Polla.” It means, “Many years,” not unlike a Greek birthday greeting.
Legendary good becomes a custom
Those not named Nicholas who want to celebrate the spirit of St. Nicholas can do so with stockings and shoes. Legend reveals that in keeping with Saint Nicholas’ generosity, he made visits to the homes of needy families and tossed gold into open windows. The traditional story describes how the gold gifts sometimes landed in stockings or shoes that were drying near fireplaces during the seasonally cold, damp days.
It didn’t take long for a favorite custom to emerge. Kids seeking gifts would leave their shoes outside their house or bedroom doors. Similar to other customs of the month of December, in the morning children discover candy, fruit or small presents inside these items. Oranges and even apples are traditional fruit gifts often placed in shoes and stockings to represent the tossed gold of the legend.
St. Nicholas Day celebrations in other countries
Since the Middle Ages, European Catholic and Christian Orthodox families have observed Saint Nicholas Day — centuries later in Latin America, too. These families often come together for traditional festive meals. In Austria, families enjoy roasted chestnuts and apple strudel. In The Netherlands and Belgium, sweet chocolate letters are a highlight of the celebration.
Some communities in the U.S. also celebrate the day on December 6. With popular December 1st advent calendars and December 6th stockings and shoes, with less than 20 days until Christmas, the season of giving-and-receiving celebrations is really underway!
The wrap up
So if you know individuals named Nicholas, like I do, make sure you give them something special on December 6th! My husband and I named our second, half-Greek son, Nicholas (although he prefers his nickname, Nico). So there will be a celebration in store in our household as the day unfolds.
And if you don’t know a Nick you can always celebrate the goodness of the actual saint himself! Indulge in the festivities of Saint Nicholas Day – exchange small presents with family and friends, hang your stockings and spread some saintly cheer! Make it a day to remember Saint Nicholas during this season of giving. Do a good deed or two with a selfless spirit. Happy Saint Nicholas Day!
St. Nicholas Day recipe
If you’re looking for something other than candies or fruits to add to your St. Nicholas Day or Name Day celebration try these cheese coins in honor of the gold tossed into stockings and shoes that ignited a fun tradition. They’re a savory alternative to the hard candies and chocolate coins of the season.
Nico’s St. Nicholas Cheese Coins
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon agave
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
10 tablespoons organic palm & coconut shortening
Preheat oven to 350°. Using parchment paper, line 2 cookie sheets.
Using a food processor pulse flour, cheese, cornstarch and salt. Add agave and balsamic vinegar until combined. Add coconut butter and blend for about 2 minutes. Dough will begin forming. Roll flat into a disk, wrap in plastic, and freeze for a short 5 minutes.
Using a floured rolling pin spread on a lightly flour-dusted pastry mat. Roll to a ¼-inch thickness. Using a glass rim or round cookie cutter, cut out coins. Position on lined cookie sheet about 1-inch apart. Repeat the process with remaining dough.
Bake for 15 minutes until golden. Cool on wire cookie racks. Coins store well in an airtight container.
SAINT NICHOLAS DAY – 12/6/22