Saint Nicholas Day
Saint Nicholas was renowned for his great kindness and his generous aid to those in distress. Among the kind and miraculous acts attributed to him are saving three young girls from prostitution by secretly providing them with dowries, raising three murdered boys from the dead, and saving sailors caught in stormy seas. For these reasons, he is considered the patron saint of children, unmarried girls, and sailors, among others.
Traditional celebrations of Saint Nicholas Day in Northern Europe included gifts left in children's shoes (the origin of our Christmas stockings). Good children receive treats - candies, cookies, apples and nuts, while naughty children receive switches or lumps of coal. Sometimes coins were left in the shoes, reminiscent of the the life-saving dowries the saint provided. Today - especially in families of German extraction - children still put a shoe outside their bedroom doors on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, and expect to find candy and coins or small gifts in their shoe on December 6th.