Irish Saint Nicholas Day

“Both sides of my family are 100% Irish, so they are obviously very Catholic. Also, I am from Chicago so there are a lot of Irish people there. I was raised pretty Irish Catholic with, like, the whole ordeal, and we would uhh go back to Ireland often. One special thing that we did is that we used to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day in conjunction with normal Christmas. It was during the Christmas season, but it was before Christmas Eve and Morning. From what I understand it was a Catholic holiday, but we celebrated it not because we were Catholic, but because we were Irish. When we went back to Ireland one year for Christmas, everyone celebrated it there. So it was a little before Christmas, and you would put your shoes outside your door of your bedroom the night before you went to sleep. If you have been good that year then there would be little trinkets in your shoes, so its like a really old version of Christmas. But unlike Christmas, there was a much bigger chance that you couldn’t get anything in your shoes if you were bad that year, so you actually had to be good that year. And depending on how good you were that year, you would get different things. And its basically what our ancestors in Ireland celebrated as Christmas.”

When I asked Devin if she also celebrated “American” Christmas, she said that they celebrated Saint Nicholas Day to connect to their ancestors, but because they were American as well, they still celebrated the “totally over the top American Christmas” as well. This merger of both ethnic and national Christmases show how some American families are trying to incorporate the folklore and traditions of their past into the increasingly commercialized American Christmas. In this case, the family decided to separate the two into separate days.

Upon asking Devin if she wanted to celebrate this Irish tradition with her kids one day, she said “most definitely,” because she would want her kids to know where they came from too. And that it does not even need to be a religious affair, per say, but she would want them to understand their “roots.”