Ever since my first child was little, the kids have put out their shoes on the night of December 5 for St. Nicholas to fill with sweets and gifts, just like my brother and I did when we were kids.
That may sound like a long-held family tradition, passed down through the generations, so let me tell you the less-romantic story of how my family of origin happened to adopt the St. Nicholas Day tradition. Because “adopt it” is exactly what we did.
When my brother and I found out our cousins woke up to find Reese’s cups in their shoes on December 6, we wanted in on that action. We begged our parents to petition St. Nick to come to our house, too, and they obliged. It was a borrowed tradition: we did it because my cousins did.
Now that I’m a grown-up, these family traditions don’t come easily to me, but we’ve managed to find some anyway. Some are firmly established, like grooving out to the Beatles for every family birthday. Some are newly adopted, like special breakfasts. My kids love them, and love that these things make us us.
And so every year on December 5, we read The Gift from Saint Nicholas, and each child puts a pair of shoes in the hallway on their way to bed. They wake up to find them filled with candy and gifts. We’re talking small, small things: chocolate coins, candy canes, matchbox cars, holiday ribbons. The first few years, while we were still building our Christmas library, everyone would get an Advent-themed book.
But it’s not about the gifts: I truly think my kids would be happy–if a bit perplexed–to wake up to find their shoes filled with sand. They love the story and the ritual, the sense of anticipation, and the little bit of magic–not the stuff.
I’m convinced these family traditions are worth finding, whether or not they come easily to you, whether they’ve been passed down through the generations or pulled out of thin air. I love the traditions we’ve made ours, and I’m constantly on the lookout for new ones. What will make us us?
We could all use a few new ideas. Tell us your family traditions, your individual traditions, or traditions you think sound amazing but haven’t actually implemented in comments.