The story behind St. Nick’s Day and Wisconsin


An image presenting some of the known traditions of the St. Nick celebration around the world.

Katey Devine, Staff Writer

On the morning of December 6, will you wake up to find a stocking or shoe full of candy and presents? If yes, then you celebrate St. Nicholas Day.

For those of you who know nothing about the day, but gladly accept the presents, St. Nicholas Day has been going on for centuries in countries all over the world. St. Nick has a reputation for giving gifts, such as candy and coins to children who leave out their shoes, or stockings in America. Many of those who participate are from European countries, cities with strong European influences, or are Christian.

Countries throughout the world take different spins on this holiday. The French celebrate by listening to grandparents tell stories of St. Nick as they wait for the saint to come with gifts and sweets carried by a donkey. In Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, impersonators will dress up as the saint and go around to schools and houses to visit children. In Catholic regions, St. Nick is welcomed in very large public places, is dressed very similar to a bishop, and rides around on his horse.

Many nations that celebrate also have a bogeyman-like creature to accompany St. Nicholas. This instills fear into children to make them behave, for the legend says naughty kids will be taken away in the bogeyman’s bag. Another similarity is that children will always leave their shoes outside their bedroom doors, or nearby their chimneys, to hold their presents in.

This holiday isn’t widely celebrated in the United States. Here in Wisconsin, however, many of us to partake in this festivity. Wisconsin celebrates due to the substantial amount of Germans, Poles, Dutch, and Belgians throughout the entire state. Unlike other countries, we hang stocking as our present-holders instead of shoes. People around the country have sometimes never heard of St. Nicholas, whereas in Wisconsin, he’s a household name to many.

No matter how you celebrate, St. Nicholas sends the message that this season is all about how giving is better than receiving.