Many Waldorf schools celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6. The holiday, often practiced in European homes, honors the generous Saint who became the inspiration for our modern Santa Claus. I really love St. Nicholas Day because it encourages generosity without becoming a commercial extravaganza!
In this week's "Sunday with Sarah," I'll tell you all about Saint Nicholas and how his day is celebrated. If you bring this new tradition into your home, please let me know what you think!
St. Nicholas is, of course, the real-life inspiration for the modern idea of Santa Claus and the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas time. He was a bishop, born around the Year 240 AD in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), and he was known for his acts of generosity, kindness and secret gift-giving. One story that's commonly told in Waldorf early childhood classrooms is about St. Nicholas boarding a ship and bringing a boatload full of food and supplies to needy children and families. Most importantly, St. Nicholas was a real human being and serves as an example of generosity and the idea that it is better to give than to receive.
Traditionally, the celebration of St. Nicholas involves children leaving a shoe out on the night of December 5th, the eve of St. Nicholas' day. In days past, children would polish their shoes for St. Nicholas but, of course, most kids today don't have shoes that require polishing.
When I was a teacher in a Waldorf school, each child had a pair of slippers for use in school and they would each leave one slipper out on a rug. We would put them in a circle the night before and, by the next morning, their shoes had been filled with little treasures from St. Nicholas! As you can probably guess, this is where the tradition of Christmas stockings came from.
Typically, shoes might contain a "clementine" orange, or a tangerine, in the toe. Also, chocolate “gold” coins. There are stories of St. Nicholas leaving coins in people's shoes, which is how this tradition started. I would always sprinkle a little glitter around the room to add a little magic as well.
Additionally, one might find small treasures in the shoes, like a polished stone, small seashells or even some small toys, similar to what you would put in a child's Christmas stocking.
Here are a few of my favorite little toys to put in a St. Nicholas shoe:
St. Nicholas Felted Waldorf Doll
Rainbow Flip-Over Top
Wooden Dreidel (Hannukah is right around the corner!)
Pocket Baby Waldorf Dolls
Stockmar Modeling Beeswax
Kitpas Bath Crayons
I'm sure you can think of many more ideas!
So I hope that gives you an idea for a new tradition you might start in your family. If you try celebrating St. Nicholas Day this year, let me know how it goes in the comments below!