St. Nicholas Day in the Secret Annex

Excerpts from The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. The 1942 entry tells of the Frank family’s observance of St. Nicholas Day—their first ever. The entry from 1943 shows increased privation, yet still, a bit of happiness that can be found with small diversions even in such circumstance.

Anne Frank, 1940
Photo: Wikipedia, public domain

Once again St. Nicholas Day
Has even come to our hideaway;

It won’t be quite as fun, I fear,
As the happy day we had last year.1

Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt
That optimism would win the bout,

And by the time this year came round,
We’d all be free, and safe and sound.

Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day,
Though we’ve nothing left to give away.

We’ll have to find something else to do:
So everyone please look in their shoe!2

       —Anne Frank


MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 1942

Dearest Kitty,

Hanukkah and St. Nicholas Day nearly coincided this year; they were only one day apart. We didn’t make much of a fuss with Hanukkah, merely exchanging a few small gifts and lighting the candles. Since candles are in short supply, we lit them for only ten minutes, but as long as we sing the song, that doesn’t matter. Mr. van Daan made a menorah out of wood, so that was taken care of too.

St. Nicholas Day on Saturday was much more fun. During dinner Bep and Miep were so busy whispering to Father that our curiosity was aroused and we suspected they were up to something. Sure enough, at eight o’clock we all trooped downstairs through the hall in pitch darkness (it gave me the shivers, and I wished I was safely back upstairs!) to the alcove. We could switch on the light, since this room doesn’t have any windows. When that was done, Father opened the big cabinet.

“Oh, how wonderful!” we all cried.

In the corner was a large basket decorated with colorful paper and a mask of Black Peter.

We quickly took the basket upstairs with us. Inside was a little gift for everyone, including an appropriate verse. Since you’re familiar with the kinds of poems people write each other on St. Nicholas Day, I won’t copy them down for you.

I received a Kewpie doll, Father got bookends, and so on. Well anyway, it was a nice idea, and since the eight of us had never celebrated St. Nicholas Day before, this was a good time to begin.

Yours, Anne

PS. We also had presents for everyone downstairs, a few things left over from the Good Old Days; plus Miep and Bep are always grateful for money.

Today we heard that Mr. van Daan’ s ashtray, Mr. Dussel’s picture frame and Father’s bookends were made by none other than Mr. Voskuijl. How anyone can be so clever with his hands is a mystery to me!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 1943
Dearest Kitty,

The closer it got to St. Nicholas Day, the more we all thought back to last year’s festively decorated basket.

More than anyone, I thought it would be terrible to skip a celebration this year. After long deliberation, I finally came up with an idea, something funny. I consulted rim, and a week ago we set to work writing a verse for each person.

Sunday evening at a quarter to eight we trooped upstairs carrying the big laundry basket, which had been decorated with cutouts and bows made of pink and blue carbon paper. On top was a large piece of brown wrapping paper with a note attached. Everyone was rather amazed at the sheer size of the gift. I removed the note and read it aloud:

Once again St. Nicholas Day
Has even come to our hideaway;

It won’t be quite as Jun, I fear,
As the happy day we had last year.

Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt
That optimism would win the bout,

And by the time this year came round,
We’d all be free, and s* and sound.

Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day,
Though we’ve nothing left to give away.

We’ll have to find something else to do:
So everyone please look in their shoe!

As each person took their own shoe out of the basket, there was a roar of laughter. Inside each shoe was a little wrapped package addressed to its owner.

Yours, Anne


From The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank, Edited by Otto H. Frank and Mifjam Pressler, translated by Susan Massotty, the Internet Archive.

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