Thank you so much Claudia for bringing this up! You know I love Christmas traditions, of all kinds, and I will take any opportunity to talk Christmassy.
Saint Nicholas! Saint Nicholas of Myra was an olden times Christian who was very generous, in one of his most famous stories he wanted to give money to a poor man to may his daughter’s dowries, but he wanted to do it in secret, so he threw a bag of gold coins through his window in the middle of the night and it was there when he woke up. Just in general he liked to give away his wealth, but in secret in the middle of the night so it would surprise people when they woke up. And his feast day is December 6th. All of which lets him kind of mix and match with the various older pagan “spirit of Solstice” sort of traditions and thus create this festive holiday gift giving person.
Saint Nicholas is related to Santa, but they are totally different people. Saint Nicholas has a long red robe and leaves treats in children’s shoes on December 6th. Santa has a red pant suit outfit, and leaves presents in stockings and under the tree on Christmas Eve. Saint Nicholas comes into the house any old way, Santa has to come down a chimney. Just, totally different.
When my mom’s mom was little, her family would do Saint Nicholas day, and not so much Santa. They did Saint Nicholas a bit when my Mom was little, but candy in shoes just can’t compete with Santa bringing actual presents. Plus the whole Santa PR campaign with all the stories and advertisements and stuff.
I don’t think we ever did Saint Nicholas when I was growing up, he was left behind by Santa. But I do have a friend who went the other way. When she was growing up, her grandmother had a rule that if you put your shoes outside the room at night at Grandma’s house, elves would fill them with candy. Just part of the magic of Grandma’s house, could happen any night of the year. She’s a grandma now and is doing the same thing with her granddaughters.
Anyway, Saint Nicholas! Is he a thing in your family? If so, what do you do with him? Do you do Saint Nicholas and Santa or just one or the other? Do you think of them as the same person?