The Custom of the Shoes

by Margaret Ehlen-Miller, Robert Miller, Loretta VanderVeen & Carol VanderVeen

Postcard, Belgium
Postcard, Belgium
St Nicholas Center Collection

Here is an adaptation of the worldwide St. Nicholas custom of leaving shoes outside bedroom doors and waiting for them to be filled with surprises on St. Nicholas Eve.

Early in the evening one family member dresses as St. Nicholas and appears before the gathered family. To each one he speaks personally (waving a wrapped gift in one hand and a stick in the other) and reminds them of the judgment of their conduct for the year. To each he asks:

"Tell me now, in what great ways have you grown to deserve the praise and presents of St. Nicholas?"

"And what bad habits have you tried to overcome?"

And to all the others he turns to ask "Shall I surprise him/her tonight with gifts or the stick?" (To which, of course, they answer, "GIFTS!")

The ceremony can be elaborated on if so desired. St. Nicholas can request from those present and questioned a song, a story, a tribute, or some words about the meaning of Christmas.

He can admonish us to wait with patience in the coming days, and tell us his own special wishes for the Christmas season.

As all retire, they place a shoe beside their bedroom doors. According to ancient custom, a bit of grain or a carrot is left in the shoe for the good saint's horse to eat. St. Nick fills the shoes with gifts during the night.

From The Gift of Time by Margaret Ehlen-Miller, Robert Miller, Loretta VanderVeen & Carol VanderVeen. Copyright © 1977 Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Used by permission.

back to top