Many Waldorf schools celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6. The holiday, often practiced in European homes, honours the generous Saint who became the inspiration for our modern Santa Claus.
St. Nicholas is, of course, the real-life inspiration for the modern idea of Santa Claus and the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas time. He was a bishop, born around the Year 240 AD in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), and he was known for his acts of generosity, kindness and secret gift-giving. One story that's commonly told in Waldorf classrooms is about St. Nicholas boarding a ship and bringing a boatload full of food and supplies to needy children and families. Most importantly, St. Nicholas was a real human being and serves as an example of generosity and the idea that it is better to give than to receive.
Traditionally, the celebration of St. Nicholas involves children leaving a shoe out on the night of December 5th, the eve of St. Nicholas' day. In days past, children would polish their shoes for St. Nicholas but, of course, most kids today don't have shoes that require polishing.
Today each child has a pair of slippers or shoes for use in school and they would each leave one slipper out on a rug. They would put them in a circle or line them up the night before and, by the next morning, their shoes had been filled with little treasures from St. Nicholas! This is where the tradition of Christmas stockings came from.
Typically, shoes might contain a "clementine" orange, or a tangerine, in the toe. Also, chocolate “gold” coins as there are stories of St. Nicholas leaving coins in people's shoes, which is how this tradition started. You also might find a sprinkle of glitter around the slippers or the room left behind from the magical visitor. Additionally, one might find small treasures in the shoes, like a polished stone, small seashells or even some small toys, similar to what you might find in a child's Christmas stocking.