The German Nikolaus Tradition…What is St. Nicholas Day?


With December just a few days away, children in Germany are not only getting ready to open their Adventskalender or advent calendars but are also counting down the days until St. Nicholas Day! St. Nicholas Day or Nikolaus sometimes also spelled Nikolas is the Patron Saint of Children and on December 6th children throughout Germany wake up to find small gifts and goodies in their shoes.


On the evening of December 5th, children not only place a boot or shoes outside their bedroom doors, but they also have to clean them first, hoping that St. Nicholas will fill them with presents overnight.

St. Nicholas Day goes back many, many years ago and is based on a true story. St. Nikolas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century in Myra, now part of Turkey. He was a very rich man due to the fact that his parents left him a small fortune when they died. Rather than keep the money, he decided to give all the money away to the needy, especially the children. Because of his kindness, he was made a Saint.

When I was a child, my parents, brother and I would sit together in the living room on the floor with shoe cleaning supplies and shine and polish our boots and shoes. Some years, we would clean all of our shoes including sneakers and ballet slippers, but especially our winter boots. I remember one year I asked my mom if I can use one of her over the knee boots because I thought St. Nicholas would leave me more presents because the boot was way bigger than mine. Of course it didn’t work like that because St. Nicholas knows which boot is mine and which boot is yours my mom told me.

After cleaning our shoes, we would set them out by the front door and the next morning we would find all sorts of things in our shoes like candy, gold coins, always a big chocolate Santa Claus and a small gift like a book, dvd, card game, socks, or a hat. Nothing to expensive but small enough to fit inside a shoe.

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Even though many European countries observe St. Nicholas Day, the day sometimes varies from December 5th to December 6th. In Germany, St. Nikolaus and his partner, Knecht Ruprecht would visit homes on the evening of December 5th and look if children are behaving. Nikolas would always wear a white robe and carry a book to double check behavior, because only well-behaved children would find goodies in their shoes. Children who are bad would be given a Rute or switch. During his visit, children would asked about their behavior and asked to recite a poem or sing a song.

In preparation of St. Nicholas Day, children in Germany sometimes also clean and tidy up their rooms and put away all of their toys. Some kids even leave out a bit of hay or straw for St. Nicholas’ donkey.

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The German Nikolaus tradition is still very strong in Germany and to this day children look forward to cleaning their shoes and receiving small gifts.

Treats For St. Nicholas To Hide In Shoes

Here are a few ideas for St. Nicholas to stuff those cleaned shoes…

Riegelein Assorted Christmas Chocolates Bag (World Market)
UNO Super Mario Card Game (Amazon)
MEIGO Wooden Toys – My 4-year-old will be getting these for St. Nicholas Day this year (Amazon)
The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving (Amazon)
Steiff Stuffed Fuzzy Baby Lamb (Amazon)
Kinder Milk Chocolate Santa (World Market)

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