St Nicholas’s Day

St Nicholas’s Day (December 6th) is celebrated in many European countries as the day St Nicholas brings treats for good children and places them in shoes or stockings put out for him.

Pattern for teddy in stocking
© F H Powell 2013

The origins of the legend of St Nicholas was that being a generous and charitable man, he gave money for dowries to three daughters of a poor Christian man. St Nicholas

wished to do this anonymously so he threw some gold coins into a chimney and they landed in the stockings hung up to dry. Hence our hanging Christmas stockings by the fireplace,
St Nicholas eventually became known as Santa Claus in the Netherlands. In Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and Austria shoes are used instead of stockings and St Nicholas visits on 6th December. In other European countries Santa Claus comes on 24th December to fill stockings of good children. Up until about the 1970’s small real coin had been used, but today chocolate coins wrapped in gold or silver foil are used to represent the coins thrown by St Nicholas, and are traditionally tucked into the toe of the stocking.
In early England St Nicholas’s Day was also the day many Cathedrals chose a Boy Bishop. This custom died out in Tudor times with the Reformation of the Church, but some Cathedrals have recently reinstated the practise. More information on Boy Bishops can be found here.