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10 Tips for Celebrating St. Nicholas Day

St. Nicholas festivities began in Europe to celebrate the watchful eye he has on children, and over time, the tradition has evolved to include families baking gingerbread and placing empty boots for St. Nicholas to fill over night. This celebration has quickly becoming a popular addition to American family traditions, and is a great way to start the holiday season.

Every year on the 6th of December we spend the day planning a St. Nicholas feast, and spend the evening drafting letters to Santa in the hopes that St. Nicholas will deliver them to Santa and fill our boots with gold coins and small toys.

Every family has a unique way of celebrating, from elaborate feasts to using rain boots, one thing remains the same…the excitement of waking up to find them filled with goodies is one that every child looks forward to.

Here are 10 tips for incorporating this tradition into your family celebrations.

1. Know the history. Several sites online offer both religious and cultural variations to the history of this celebration, choose the theme that fits with your holiday celebrations and share it with your family.

2. Consider the food. Traditionally gingerbread is baked and served to celebrate St. Nicholas, and them left for him to enjoy on his visit. Plan your feast or holiday treats around this food tradition, by either incorporating class gingerbread cookies, or going modern with gingerbread cupcakes.

3. Consider the drinks. Traditionally hot chocolate is served during the celebration, and then left for St. Nicholas to enjoy on his visit. Make a big batch in your slow cooker to ensure that you don’t run out of this popular festive drink, and that it stays warm during the festivities.

4. Plan your tradition. I have yet to meet anyone who celebrates in the same way, which makes this a truly unique, “make it your own” celebration. Consider how much time you want to invest in the planning and folklore of this festivity. For us, we use this day to trim our trees, and truly embrace the start of the holiday season, for others they embrace the simplicity of the “boot night” without adding another event to plan to their already packed holiday calendar.

5. Make your list. For some, including our family, St, Nicholas keeps watch over our children all year long and delivers the Christmas wish list with a report on who has been naughty and nice. If you St. Nicholas will be delivering your notes, be sure to have them ready inside your boots before St. Nicholas arrives.

6. Buy your stuffers. Traditionally, gold chocolate coins, Satsuma or other oranges, and small toys are stuffed into the boots.

7. Decide on your “boots”. There are those that keep it very traditional and opt for wooden clogs housed on a window ledge, others sew felt booties and place them by the fire place, while others still, like us, opt for every day shoes by the back door. Once you decided on the boots, decide where you will keep them for the night, and then stick to that tradition.

8. Manage expectations. The folklore of Santa Claus and St. Nicholas have been so closely intertwined that more many people, adults included, they do not know the different between the two. To avoid confusion or disappointment, be sure that everyone celebrating does not have grand gift expectations, or be under the illusion that Santa is coming early this year.

9. The morning of. There is always an added excitement the morning the children wake to find their boots stuffed with goodies and their wish list gone that can be prolonged by a brunch shared with friends and family.

10. Keeping the spirit alive. Following boot night, those that use traditional boots or handmade booties, frequently use them to adorn their holiday decorations to keep the spirit of St. Nicholas alive throughout the entire holiday season.

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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