St. Nick’s Day

Informant is a theatre student at USC who was raised in Wisconsin and comes from 65% German heritage. 

St Nick’s Day is kind of a tradition that it isn’t anywhere else. Just because we’re so so German in roots. Everyone does it a little differently, but I know a few people who do it just like we do.

What is St. Nick’s Day?

It’s initially a German tradition. St. Nicholas, or Santa, whatever would – ‘cause Christmas is actually the birth of Christ. So St Nick would actually come around the 6th of December. And he would leave presents in the kids’ stockings. That’s kinda how all that really started. But how we do it, my family, is you leave your stocking – you leave your note for Christmas in your stocking, and Santa – or St. Nick – will come by and he’ll take the note out of your stocking and he’ll leave presents in your stockings. On the 6th of December. And then he has your list, for the rest of Christmas. Most other people around the US will mail their notes to Santa, which – I did not know that was a thing for the longest time. I was so shocked when I found out that people actually mailed their lists to Santa. I was just like “How does he actually sift through all of that? How does he know where it’s all coming from? At least with us he picked it up straight from the house and he knew where it was.” Childhood logic. And then I had a German teacher who would also celebrate it with us, and we would leave our little dance shoes on our desks at school, and she would put a clementine, which is kind of like a tradition – like a fruit, fruit in stockings is a tradition. And then she’d leave a couple little chocolates or something. Cute, fun little things. That one I know is initially a German tradition – ‘cause they also have Krampus, who’s hilarious. But yeah.

With St. Nick’s Day, it’s not just your family – it’s people in the area.

Its not just us. I’m not sure if it’s the whole area, but anyone with enough German roots knows what it is. Or at least has an idea about it. They may not actually practice it, but they know it.

[The people who learned about it through school were] anybody who wasn’t German enough. There were a few people who were like “What is happening?” But for the most part they all accepted it and moved on or already knew about it. I know there were at least two other kids who were super German, like one whose father was actually in Germany and the other whose father had immigrated from Germany and they definitely knew what it was.

It’s not just our family that does it. Everybody practices it a little bit differently.

What are some other versions?

Some people he just puts things in their stockings and moves on, I think my mom came up with the list part. I think that was all her. Everything else – like the leaving the little bit of toys in the stocking, that is the German tradition. Because the story of St. Nick, is like – he basically threw money in this guy’s window so his daughters would get married. That was essentially the story of St. Nick. And then somehow he became a saint. And now he goes around giving gifts to kids on the 6th of December. And apparently Christmas. I don’t know how that one came around.
Informant described this pleasantly and excitedly. It is a holiday and tradition I was completely unaware of. I had heard of St. Nick, but didn’t know that he had a day to himself many days before Christmas.