Updated for 2021!
Friends, St. Nicholas Day is December 6. That’s not as far off as it sounds. Especially this year, when plans are likely to be complicated by uncertainty. Will you be able to have an in-person party for the children of your parish? Will you deliver gift bags to your godchildren’s homes?
I can’t predict the future for you. I don’t have any way of knowing what kinds of restrictions may be in place come December. I can, however, make one thing easier for you. I’ve pulled together links for gifts and favors suitable for a St. Nicholas celebration. (These are NOT affiliate links, by the way. They’re just things that I found that I thought would make lovely St. Nicholas Day gifts.) All you have to do is settle on your budget, pick out the items that make sense for you, and place your orders.
What to put in the St. Nicholas gift bag?
Gold coins, candy canes, and small oranges are the perfect place to start!
Paidea Classics has imported Belgian chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil and stamped with “St. Nicholas of Myra” on one side and a church dome on the other. These coins are available in bulk (25, 50, or 100 coins).
Five or six of the coins would fit easily in one of these little linen bags with a hemp cord. It looks like the sort of bag St. Nicholas might have carried when he dropped gold coins through the window at the widower’s house. A dozen 3” x 5” bags is less than $5.
If you are only making one or two gift bags, and don’t want so many coins, you can get 6 chocolate coins in a little organza bag for $6.
Three gold balls are one of the symbols of St. Nicholas in religious art, to represent the 3 bags of gold St. Nicholas delivered to the widower’s daughters. Because oranges look rather like gold balls, oranges have long been a traditional St. Nicholas Day treat.
For local giving, you’ll want to buy mandarin oranges at your local grocery. Shipping those could be an issue, though. If you’re mailing your St. Nicholas gift bag, consider these gift-filled Christmas oranges from Etsy. They are filled with the sort of trinkets you might get in a Christmas cracker or a pinata. A bag of 6 cost $33. I’ve never tried them, but they look like they would be a lot of fun.
Candy canes represent St. Nicholas’s crozier, so every gift bag should include a candy cane. You’ll want to make sure the candy canes are gluten-free and allergy-safe, so all the children who receive the gift bags can enjoy them. Spangler candy canes are a good choice. 144 individually wrapped canes are $32. (You can also get 240 mini candy canes for less than $24!)
Add a book, an ornament, and other gifts
I believe that a book is the right gift for every occasion. I made a tradition of giving my children and godchildren books and Christmas ornaments every year. So, naturally, those seem like the right things to put in a St. Nicholas Day gift bag.
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow is the perfect book to include in your gift bag. The story begins on the morning of St. Nicholas Eve. Catherine’s best friend, Elizabeth, is coming for a sleepover. They’ll share a day filled with warm cookies, squabbles with siblings, holiday traditions, and the excitement of an unexpected snowstorm.
If your little ones are disappointed about missing church on St. Nicholas Day, they may be comforted by the fact that Catherine and Elizabeth missed church, too. In their case, it was because of the snow, and not the pandemic. But it will allow you to remind your children that things don’t always go the way we expect, and we can accept the challenges with courage and joy.
The paperback is $9.99, and the hardcover is $24.99. You can get it in my webstore or on Amazon, of course, or you can support your local independent bookstore by buying on bookshop.org. If you’re buying 10 or more copies, though, you’ll want to email my publisher at email@example.com to receive a 25% discount. (Just be sure to order early! Rush orders will likely be impossible.)
If you’re putting together gift bags for all your Sunday school students, ornaments that are definitively St. Nicholas might be too expensive to include. But if your gift bag is for your godchild or grandchild, check out the selection of St. Nicholas ornaments at The Saint Nicholas Center.
Or make an ornament! You can use this blackwork embroidery pattern that Tracy Thallas created to go with The Saint Nicholas Day Snow. You can see ornaments like it on the Christmas tree in Catherine’s house. The pattern is entirely free. Because the ornaments are small, you may be able to make as many as you need from odds and ends of even-weave linen and embroidery floss you have on hand.
Or make red egg ornaments using real egg shells or wooden eggs.
Mounted icons are expensive. But prayer cards and icon cards are not. And they’d be lovely to include in your gift bag.
I like this traditional prayer card from Zazzle. It’s just $1.20. And Uncut Mountain has a variety of small laminated St. Nicholas icons for $3 each. (In the search results, the price is for a full-sized wood-mounted icon. Click on the one you like, and you’ll find the small laminated icon cards.)
A cookie cutter and a recipe would be lovely to include. My favorite cookie cutters are metal, but plastic St. Nicholas cookie cutters are more readily available. This very detailed St. Nicholas cookie cutter is lovely. I also like this simpler cookie cutter. Both ship from overseas, so keep an eye on shipping prices and dates if you order them.
If decorating a St. Nicholas cookie looks too complicated to you, consider getting a snowflake cutter instead. The Wilton comfort-grip snowflake cookie cutter is just $3.75. A simple glaze or sparkling sugar are all you need to decorate the snowflakes.
I know. We all wish we were past the need to wear face masks. As long as we need them, though, they might as well be fun. Like these St. Nicholas face masks that I found on Etsy. They come in a full range of sizes, and I think they’re adorable.
What to put the St. Nicholas gifts in?
Once you’ve assembled your gifts, you’ll need to package them. You can buy gift bags wherever you buy greeting cards, of course, but that’s an expensive way to buy them. Especially if you’ve got a lot of gifts to give.
Online, though, you can get snow-flake patterned paper gift bags at about $10 per dozen.
If your budget allows, you can choose a fancier bag and make the bag part of the gift. You can get a snowflake-printed tote bag from Zazzle, starting at just under $6. For a special grandchild or godchild, you might consider a drawstring backpack. Either the bag or the backpack would make awesome church bags for kids who bring books or quiet toys to church with them.
With prayers and wishes for a joyous St. Nicholas Day.
Have a St. Nicholas party in July!: In the Orthodox Church, we celebrate the Nativity of St. Nicholas in July. Here are some ideas to make the celebration special for the children you love.
Book activities with The Saint Nicholas Day Snow: Extend the book with cooking, crafts, academic activities, and Advent devotions.
Recipes for Pascha and St. Nicholas Day: Pascha and St. Nicholas Day both call for loads of yummy home-made treats.
Buy the Book: The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
Shoes or stockings? Horse or sleigh? Does St. Nicholas visit on December 6 or on Christmas Eve? Will a little girl’s prayer be answered? When Elizabeth has to stay at Catherine’s house, she’s worried about her grandmother, and worried that St. Nicholas won’t find her. The grownups, though, are worried about snow.