Our family loves St. Nicholas Day, first of all because he is the patron of the Byzantine Church. There is a beautiful icon of him in our icon screen and we will celebrate his feast day with liturgical prayer and lovely Carpatho-Rusyn hymns. Secondly, I am German and grew up with putting my shoes in front of the bedroom door on the night of the fifth of December to find them filled with candy, nuts, tangerines and a fragrant fir branch by Sankt Nikolaus in the morning. There would also be a red plastic Nikolausstiefel, a Nicholas boot, with more goodies. The candy usually included chocolate-covered marzipan "bread". My husband and I lived in the Netherlands where the feast day of St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas in Dutch, is the great day of gift giving and cheer while Christmas is traditionally a day of prayer and reflection. My memories of Sinterklaas include his donkey and his helper Zwaarte Piet, Black Pete, who brings pieces of coal and switches to bad children. Good children receive gifts and delicious Dutch spice cookies called spekulaas.
The Dutch name Sinterklaas is, of course, the inspiration for the American Santa Claus. If you would like to read up about the historical St. Nicholas, fourth century Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, today's Turkey, Saint Nicholas : Bishop of Myra by D.L. Cann is a good resource which puts the holy bishop into his historic setting. This is a somewhat scholarly adult level book. There is also a chapter on the relationship between St. Nicholas and the British Father Christmas who is closely related to our Santa Claus.
St. Nicholas is celebrated and loved for his charity and compassion all over Europe. Each country has its own legends about the saint. The Real St. Nicholas: Tales of Generosity and Hope From Around The World is an anthology of legends of St. Nicholas compiled by Louise Carus. The book includes a map of Europe featuring the countries the tales and traditions originate from. This is a great read aloud book.
The Baker's Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Wendy Edelson is a sumptuously illustrated picture books of a lovely, early American St. Nicholas legend.
The Legend of St. Nicholas by Demi has fascinating gilded illustrations and tells the most famous legends of the history of St. Nicholas as well as the connections to Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins by Jim Forest, illustrated by Vladislav Andrejev tells the story of the saint supplying the gold for three poor girls' dowries with rich iconography illustrations.
The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Judith Brown, takes place in communist Russia where the courage of a village community resists the oppression of their faith under the protection of an icon of St. Nicholas.
Kersti and Saint Nicholas was written in 1940 by beloved children's author Hilda Van Stockum and revised by the author's family.This is a 76 page chapter book with color illustrations about a naughty Dutch girl who persuades Bishop Nicholas to have mercy and bestow a gift on her.
Last not least a graphic novel, Saint Nicholas and the Mouse of Myra by Jay Stoeckl, OFS, has the saint debate the Faith with a Greek philosopher mouse called Cicero who is eventually converted. 6-12 years.
Here are some more selection for you on our Pinterest Board St. Nicholas Books For Catholic Kids.
Visit the St. Nicholas Center for a wealth of books, crafts, cooking and traditions about the saint.
Have a Blessed St. Nicholas Day!