Celebrating St. Nicholas Day: A Holiday Tradition

Christmas has always been my very favorite season.

When my oldest child was born, I was determined to create special family traditions to celebrate the season. As I read about the stories behind many of our holiday traditions, I loved the story of St. Nicholas. What a fantastic story and teaching opportunity! I couldn’t believe that I’d never been taught about him before. I also discovered the real historical figures behind Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. What a rich history that I’d totally missed, even though I’d been brought up in church all my life! I searched out children’s books and resources on them and many other holiday traditions to use with my own kids.

So, for the last 10 years, we’ve celebrated not only Christmas Eve/Day, but also St. Nicholas Day, as well as Epiphany or Three Kings Day. It’s a wonderful way to extend the season, spreading the celebration out a bit, and offering opportunities to teach our children about the reality behind all the hoopla surrounding Christmas in our culture. The feast day is December 6, and some years, due to our schedule, we can’t do it on that date. We celebrate it as close as we can to the real day. The evening before, we read the story of Saint Nicholas, do a few fun activities (coloring pages for the little ones, etc.). The next morning, the kids find their stockings full. We often do one joint “family” gift as well, usually a DVD to watch together. On Christmas each child receives a few more gifts (three is the general rule of thumb…the same number Jesus received from the magi).

Before Christmas we also do an Advent wreath and calendar to count down until Christmas Day, and after we count the twelve days of Christmas until Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day, which we celebrate with cake and a small gift.

We love celebrating St. Nicholas’ life and legacy and using his feast day as an opportunity to focus on generosity and the true spirit of Christmas. We also love the fun family memories it creates and the opportunity it gives us to extend the season a bit more. It’s been great for our family!

If you’re interested in learning more about it or getting ideas on how to celebrate, check out the St. Nicholas Center website. It’s full of info and suggestions. You can also read more about what our family does and what resources we use here.


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  1. Great post, Kara. We do the three gifts as well. And we have researched and learned many incredible true stories in history. This is one of the many reasons why homeschooling is an added blessing to our homes and lives. GOD Bless Your Family! Love, Mercy Bolting.

  2. A little late to this post….but I totally think this is a great idea. We always had St. Nick’s day as a kid so from small on I knew there was a definite distinction between St. Nick – a real man who did good works, and Santa Claus – who is just “someone” we include at Christmas for fun. I think kids today need help making the distinction between the spiritual and the secular aspects of Christmas and St. Nick’s day is a great way to do that.

    We also celebrated the Epiphany, too, which was such a wonderful way to round out the Season. Being Catholic, we actually have a specific Sunday service to recall the story of the Wise Men and their visit to Jesus which also helps reinforce the difference between Christmas as a holiday of the faithful vs. a holiday of fun.
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