St. Nicholas was a real person who lived in the third century in an area which is now known as Turkey. He was born to very well-off parents, who left him a sizeable inheritance, but he chose to use the money to help others. He became a bishop and dedicated himself to helping the needy and was very generous, especially with children. His feast day is December 6th and celebrated across the globe in various different ways. Most focus on giving children small gifts and treats. To learn more about St. Nicholas and different cultural traditions on his feast day, there is a wealth of information here.
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I love giving my kids gifts on this day for two reasons. The first is tradition. Although St. Nicholas Day isn't widely celebrated in America, it is in many countries around the world; Germany being one of those. My grandfather's grandparents came from Germany and brought the traditions of St. Nicholas Day with them. In Germany, children leave their shoes out in hopes "St. Nicholas" will fill their shoes small toys, baked goods, fruits and nuts. This tradition has been in my family in America for at least 5 generations. Because my kids usually get more gifts than can be put in a shoe, we leave a stocking out.
*It may be important to note, we do not pretend St. Nicholas actually brings the gifts. They know it is from mommy and daddy. This is because St. Nicholas was a real person and we teach them about what he did during his lifetime. They also know he is no longer alive and we recognize him as a saint in heaven. We do get gifts from Santa on Christmas...more on that another day.)
Second, it is the perfect opportunity to gift seasonal items. I'm already going to buy the kids Christmas books, stuffed animals, shirts, pajamas, crafts, and treats. Why not have them receive them all at once and make a memory out of it? In the pictures from last year below, you can see that they each received 1 Christmas book, 1 Christmas stuffed animal. (I usually get the book and stuffed animals from Kohls for $5 each. But this year I bought my little one the cutest musical Rudolph.) They also got Christmas ornament crafts, 1 small toy and a few treats in addition to a Little People nativity set and new slippers. This year holiday clothes and pajamas are on the list too.
Of course, my kids are extra spoiled because my mom gives them St. Nicholas Day gifts as well. Many times she has had us over for dinner as well. Even if your family doesn't have a tradition of St. Nicholas, you can always start one now. I have fond memories of celebrating St. Nicholas Day, and so do my children. The season of advent is a long season of waiting for Christmas. This is one way to enjoy the journey. Additionally, this day of learning of about St. Nicholas can bring a springboard to some generosity . For example, my family usually buys a gift for a foster child in our community.
For some ideas on small toys and treats for St. Nicholas Day see below!
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