The real story behind St. Nicholas

The real story behind St. Nicholas

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee


St Nicholas

With Thanksgiving behind us, there is already another holiday on the horizon — St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6.

But do you know the story behind St. Nick?

It’s a European tradition — still popular in Germany, France and in neighboring countries — honoring the real-life Catholic Saint Nicholas, who died in 373 C.E.  He was known for his generosity, especially to children and poor unmarried women whose families could not afford dowries for marriage.

Legend has it children would leave their shoes out overnight or pin socks to the fireplace to dry, and when morning came, they’d discover gold coins had appeared overnight.

But the tradition of celebrating St. Nick probably wouldn’t have made it to Milwaukee had it not been for German immigrants. In fact, many other American cities don’t celebrate it whatsoever, according to Katy Jaessing, Executive Director of Goethe House Wisconsin, a German cultural organization in Downtown Milwaukee.

Click the podcast player above the photos to hear the rest of the St. Nick tradition, including the dark story of Krampus (pictured, right) and music from neighboring France where the tradition is upheld, too.