Celebrating St. Nicholas Day is a wonderful opportunity to spread holiday joy and cheer in your neighborhood.
The Story of St. Nicholas
The traditional Advent feast day, which occurs on December 6th, remembers St. Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra (near the southern coast of Turkey) in the fourth century. His parents died when he was young, leaving Nicholas with a large sum of money. Nicholas used his inheritance to help those in need, particularly children. Because of his generosity Nicholas is well known as the patron saint of children and gift-giving.
One story connects St. Nicholas to the origins of Santa Claus. During Nicholas’ time a family in his community fell on hard times. The father lost his job and money. Without the ability to offer a dowry for his three daughters their future was grim. When Nicholas heard of the family’s misfortune he decided to help. He tossed three bags of gold into an open window and saved the daughters from a terrible fate. The custom of giving gifts on St. Nicholas Day originated in Europe as a way to commemorate the life of the saint who was a helper of those in need.
5 Simple Steps To Celebrate St. Nicholas Day in Your Neighborhood
- Get A Buddy. Ask a friend to help you plan your neighborhood St. Nicholas Day. It’s not only practical to have help, it’s way more fun. In our neighborhood there’s a small team of “Secret Elves” who collaborate to make the evening simple. I’m not sure who has more fun — the Secret Elves or the children who receive the gifts!
- Reach Out To Your Neighbors. Prior to December 6th, reach out to your neighbors who have children. Mandy (our neighborhood Chief Elf) sends out an email to the neighbors on our street. The email explains the celebration and asks if they are interested in a surprise visit from St. Nicholas. Children who wish to have St. Nicholas stop are asked to leave a shoe on the front porch before bedtime. The parents are asked to reply to the email, then we make a list of houses and how many children will be leaving shoes outside.
- Buy Small Gifts. Traditional St. Nicholas Day gifts include chocolate gold coins, clementines or oranges, and a delicious cookie. Sometimes small toys are given as well. Decide what gifts you plan to leave in the children’s shoes. Our neighborhood goes traditional with cookies, clementines, and gold coins.
- Send A Reminder. On December 5th, send a reminder email to the parents making sure the kiddos put their shoes outside.
- Deliver The Gifts. After the children are asleep, the Secret Elves meet at The Turquoise Table. We put together small bags of chocolate coins, clementines, and cookies. We tie them together with a coloring page or tag that explains the story of St. Nicholas. Then we quietly deliver the gifts to all the shoes left on our neighbor’s doorsteps.
The possibilities for celebrating St. Nicholas Day are endless and easily adaptable for your neighborhood. Live in an apartment complex? Talk to the manager about your idea and ask for help. Live in a rural area? Consider sharing the idea with a children’s shelter or nursing home and surprising the residents with a visit from St. Nick. For more information about St. Nicholas and ways to celebrate visit St. Nicholas Center.
What ideas do you have for living as Front Yard People this holiday season? Leave a comment below so we can all benefit from the ideas.