St Nicholas Day/Event Ideas

by Rona Orme

Date: 6 December (or nearest Sunday)
Web link:



For many people, St Nicholas is the person who has become known as Santa Claus and even Father Christmas. Many families will take children to visit Father Christmas in a shopping or garden centre. This is an idea to welcome families to meet Father Christmas (St Nicholas) in church and to find out about a man who devoted his life to serving Jesus.

Key Bible verse
Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven.
Matthew 19:21

Bible link

Acts 20:35 (more blessings come from giving than receiving)

Key focus
: Fun; providing sacred space for reflection

Key group
: Children; church family; families; schools; uniformed groups

Activity Ideas

Invite families to meet Father Christmas at a St Nicholas' Day event. Arrange this either as an all-age event or, with consent forms, as a session for unaccompanied children. The latter would allow parents to get on with Christmas preparations if held at the weekend. It could also form the basis of an all-age service. Ensure that a picture of Father Christmas is included on all the publicity. Further information about running an event for unaccompanied children is included below.1

Gathering activity

Invite everyone to make a bishop's mitre. Instructions can be found here.


Tell the story of St Nicholas using 'pass the parcel' to reveal symbols to illustrate the story. This list of symbols is in reverse order (so that the first listed forms the centre of the parcel and the last on the list is the symbol that is required first in the story).

You will need three socks or shoes; picture of a bishop's mitre; a bag of chocolate coins; a small Bible; a picture of an unhappy face; map of Europe showing Turkey; a bag of chocolate coins

If possible, invite everyone to sit in a circle. If this is not possible, ask someone to supervise the passing of the parcel along the rows.

The first layer is unwrapped to reveal [a bag of] chocolate coins.

Gold coins

Leader: Nicholas was born into a very wealthy family.

The second layer is unwrapped to reveal a map [of Europe] showing Turkey.

Leader: He lived in the village of Patara on the south coast of [Asia Minor, now in] Turkey.

The third layer is unwrapped to reveal a picture of an unhappy face.
Sad face

Leader: Nicholas' parents died when he was young.

The fourth layer is unwrapped to reveal a small Bible.

Leader: Nicholas was brought up to believe in God and he tried to live a Christian life.

The fifth layer is unwrapped to reveal more chocolate coins.
Bag of gold coins

Leader: He used all the money he had inherited from his parents to look after people who lived in poverty or were in need.

The sixth layer is unwrapped to reveal a picture of a mitre.

Leader: Other people saw the way he lived his life and Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra.

The seventh layer is unwrapped to reveal three socks or shoes.

Leader: One story told about Nicholas was that he heard about a family who could not afford to pay a dowry to enable their three daughters to get married. One night Nicholas passed their window and threw in three bags of gold coins. (Another version has Nicholas throwing the coins down the chimney.) The coins landed in the shoes of the young women. There was enough money so they could get married. Many people think that is the first time we hear about Santa Claus, which is another way of saying St Nicholas, or even Father Christmas.


Make a model St Nicholas to take home using a cardboard tube as the main base. There are plenty of ideas and instructions here. If everyone makes two such models, the second could be filled with a few chocolate coins and used as a gift to share the story of St Nicholas with a neighbour, friend or work colleague.


Invite everyone to take off their shoes and to line them up as if outside their bedroom door. In church, shoes should be lined up at the end of the row or pew. Play a round or two of ‘sleeping children', which is played in the same way as 'sleeping lions.'2 While everyone is pretending to sleep, put a foil-covered chocolate coin in each pair of shoes (or in each shoe if there are sufficient chocolates) to be discovered at the end of the game when everyone puts their shoes back on.


(to the tune of 'O Christmas Tree' or 'O Tannenbaum')
St Nicholas, St Nicholas
You were a good and holy man
St Nicholas, St Nicholas
You lived your life to Jesus' plan
You followed Jesus all your days
You used your wealth to give him praise
St Nicholas, St Nicholas
We thank the Lord for Nicholas

St Nicholas, St Nicholas
The world remembers what you did
St Nicholas, St Nicholas
With women married, children fed
May we be generous like you
May we all follow Jesus, too
St Nicholas, St Nicholas
We thank the Lord for Nicholas

Here is a further selection of songs and hymns for use on St Nicholas' Day. Most of the songs are set to familiar tunes.

Closing activity

Have a visit from St Nicholas (who may look remarkably like Father Christmas to our eyes) to ask everyone to help other people as they prepare for Christmas.


Create a mock chimney. Invite everyone to write or draw a prayer on to an A4 [letter] sheet of paper. This is then screwed up into a tight ball and has to be tossed into the chimney. Small children will need to stand close to the receptacle, but older children and adults can be challenged to stand some distance away so they may need more than one throw to make their prayer.

Developing the theme

The activity ideas could be offered as a one-off lunchtime or after-school club. Where schools offer a commercial after-school facility, you could offer to provide an hour's programme for them.

The ideas could also be the basis of a Toy Service with St Nicholas arriving at the end to collect toys that have been donated for distribution to hospitals, women's refuges and via Food Banks.

1. It is the responsibility of each church, group leader and individual leader to ensure the safety of children who are left in their care. Think of this as 'granny standard' care. Look after the children as if they were your own grandchildren. Legislation requires you to undertake the risk assessments for ensuring the health and safety of young people, to use consent forms (with contact details and information about medical requirements), and to make sure that no adult is left alone with a child. Ensure that all activities involving children can be easily observed from outside the room. While these procedures may sometimes seem burdensome, they provide an opportunity for us to serve the children entrusted to our care to the highest standard.
Disclosure & Barring Service(criminal background checks)
Safeguarding God's Children Church of England policy for safeguarding children
Safeguarding from Peterborough Diocese
or look up your own legal and organizational requirements

Parents or carers must give permission before any photograph or video is taken of a child. If children are to be left without their parents, it is good practice to include a question about permission to take photographs (and so on) on any consent form. Use colored sticky labels to indicate discreetly any children who should not be photographed. At events where consent forms will not be used, such as large-scale drop-in events where children remain the responsibility of the adult who brought them, it is a good idea to display a notice saying that photographs and video may be used for future publicity purposes. Explain that adults can obtain a coloured sticky label for each child so that photographers know to avoid getting them in frame. Generally adults are expected to speak up for themselves if they do not wish to be included.

2. Sleeping Lions Everyone lies on the floor and pretends to be asleep. Anyone who can be seen to more or heard to make any noise is eliminated. This is a good game to help everyone calm down. It can be used to illustrate the three young women being asleep when St. Nicholas provides money for their dowry.

By Rona Orme, from More Creative Mission: Over 40 further ideas to help church and community celebrate special days and events throughout the year, Barnabas for Children, copyright © 2013, The Bible Reading Fellowship, pp. 74-79.
Used by permission.

44 chapters to celebrate feasts and seasons: seasonal activities and sections for Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. Special days include All Saints, Remembrance, St Martin, St Cecilia, St Andrew, St Nicholas, Christingle, St Paul, and others, such as, Granny & Grandpa day, star gazing, Easter, Noah, open farm and much more. Each chapter has a key Bible verse, Bible links, identifies key focus and key group, with activity ideas, music if appropriate, prayer and further ideas to develop the theme. A very useful resource.
Purchase from, or or as a PDF download from BRF (Bible Reading Fellowship).

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