Have you been nice this year? Or have you been naughty? Maybe a little bit of both? There’s one person who knows for sure.

That’s right, we’re talking about Santa Claus. Every year, he makes a list — and checks it twice — to find out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.

But several weeks before Christmas, there’s another day that many children around the world look forward to. The day is Saint Nicholas Day, and it occurs each year on December 6.

“St. Nick’s Day,” as it’s sometimes called, is widely celebrated in Europe, as well as many communities in the United States that have strong German, Polish, Belgian or Dutch roots. The day celebrates the legend of the goodness and generosity of Saint Nicholas.

Nikolaos (that’s “Nicholas” in Greek) was born in 270 A.D. in a small Greek village on the southern coast of what is now Turkey. He dedicated his life to serving God and grew up to become the bishop of Myra.

Nikolaos was believed to have performed many miracles in his lifetime. In fact, he was often called “Nikolaos the Wonderworker.” According to Christian tradition, Nikolaos was named a saint in recognition for his many miracles and good deeds.

Saint Nicholas died on December 6, 343 A.D. The anniversary of his death became a feast day of celebration — Saint Nicholas Day — on December 6 each year thereafter.

Saint Nicholas also had a reputation for giving secret gifts by putting coins in people’s shoes during the night. Today, according to tradition, children put their shoes outside their bedroom doors on the evening of December 5.

Saint Nicholas visits overnight. Then, on the morning of December 6, children awake to find their shoes full of small gifts and candy.

The celebration of Saint Nicholas Day in early December, along with his reputation as a gift-giver, has led many to associate Saint Nicholas with Santa Claus. Some people even call Santa Claus by the nickname (pun totally intended) “St. Nick” from time to time.

Of course, St. Nick isn’t the only other name Santa Claus goes by. Around the world, Santa Claus has many different names.

If you ever find yourself in a foreign country in late December, it may be helpful to know what Santa is called in that part of the world. Here’s a small sample of a few of the names Santa goes by around the world:


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    • Hi, Callie! In the song, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” there’s a part that goes, “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” Lots of Wonder Friends believe that Santa Claus is always watching to see who makes his Nice List or the “other” list! Thanks so much for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  1. I am for sure going to put my shoes outside tonight!!! Sounds fun. I didn’t know that they had a holiday called St. Nick’s Day. Maybe I should look into my German roots a little more!! :)

    (Just a question. What nationality are you?)

    • Thank you so much for letting us know you learned some new holiday traditions by exploring today’s Wonder, Emmy, and also for sharing a little about your own heritage! What nationality are we? Well, we’re all “Wonder Friends” here in Wonderopolis! :-)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We learn a lot from your articles. Some people in our class have holiday traditions. Mrs. Johnson has a German foreign exchange student named Fiona. Fiona is going to put her shoes outside of her bedroom door tonight so that St. Nicholas can fill her shoes with goodies or candy.

    We have one question for you. We have been trying to find the very first question or Wonder of the Day that you posted. How can we find that?

    Mrs. Johnson’s third grade

    • We think it ROCKS that you guys learned so much from today’s Wonder of the Day®, Mrs. Johnson’s third grade! How cool is it that Mrs. Johnson’s exchange student can help you connect the wonder to real-life holiday traditions even more? It’s SUPER COOL! We hope Saint Nicholas fills Fiona’s shoes with lots of goodies! :-)

      Our very first Wonder of the Day® is a COLORFUL one! It’s Wonder of the Day® #1 – Why Are Flamingos Pink? Here is a link that will take you right to it: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/pink-flamingos/. Happy WONDERing! :-)

  3. We think tomorrow’s wonder is about Abe Lincoln, because he cannot tell a lie and he is very tall. Or it is a tall tale.

    • Thank you for being great Wonder Friends and trying to guess tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day® from the clue, David, Robbie, Missy, Keana! Let’s all check back tomorrow to see if you guys were right! :-)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I learned that you can say ‘St. Nick’ or ‘Sants Clause’ in many different languages. My family tradition is that when we start opening presents, we usually start from the oldest to youngest. So I always go last!! I wonder how you say ‘Santa Clause’ in German. If I visited Germany, how would I say Santa Clause??

    –Hannah from Team Turner

    • Hi, Hannah! Thank you for sharing one of your holiday traditions with us today! We think it would be FUN to be the last person to open presents, because the excitement would build with each present our other family members opened! By the time it was our turn, we would be SUPER EXCITED and it would be extra special!

      You asked a GREAT question about Santa Claus, too! In Germany, he is called, “der Weihnachtsmann.” :-)

    • Thanks for stopping by today’s Wonder of the Day®, Jacob! We’re glad you learned more about the joy that holiday traditions bring to people all over the world! Sharing holiday meals with family is such an AWESOME tradition! Thank you for sharing with us today! :-)

  5. I really liked this wonder! I liked learning about the Christmas pickle, and also liked to learn about St. Nick’s Day. My question is, if St. Nick died December 6, then how does he still deliver presents? What my family does on Christmas is, we decorate our tree and decorate our gate. We also set out milk and cookies.

  6. I have learned a lot about these articles. I did not know that there was a holiday called St. Nick’s Day, but I think that I will go home tonight and tell my family about it. I was wondering…if St. Nick died on December 6 343 A.D., then who is Santa? Really a ghost?

  7. I think that St. Nick is a person that delivers presents to all the good boys and girls. I have a question if St. Nick is dead, then how does he still deliver presents? My family, for Christmas does not do much, but we set up lights and decorations.

  8. Hello, Megan, Abbe and Olivia! Those are all GREAT questions you asked about St. Nick! Because St. Nick had a reputation for giving gifts and spreading joy (something many cultures do around the holiday season), and because Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated in early December (the same month as Christmas), many Wonder Friends associate Saint Nicholas with Santa Claus. We think the spirit of giving to others and spreading joy is something we should ALL share in ALL year long, don’t you? :-)

    Thanks for your awesome comments and for telling us some of the holiday traditions you and your families share! HAPPY HOLIDAYS to you! :-)

  9. Today’s WONDER was great! I love Christmas! One of my family Christmas traditions is on Christmas morning, we have a scavenger hunt to find our last and biggest present. :D

    Bob :D

    • A Christmas morning scavenger hunt sounds like SO MUCH fun, Bob! What a great holiday tradition…thank you for sharing it! :-)

    • We’ll have to see if you’re right about your guess, Bob! Thanks for using the clue to try and figure out tomorrow’s Wonder! Some other Wonder Friends think it’s going to be about Abraham Lincoln, too! :-)

    • We’ll have to see tomorrow if some lucky Wonder Friends got goodies and candy in their shoes tonight, Mak! It sounds like such a fun holiday tradition, doesn’t it? We hope you have the BEST holiday season EVER and get to spend lots of WONDERful time with family and friends! :-)

  10. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I think the St. Nick in Sweden is very different from the others.
    In my class, we are reading a book called Family Under the Bridge which is in England, and in that book, it talks about Father Christmas. I never knew that there was so many Santas around the world.

    • Thanks for sharing all the cool things you learned about Santa around the world, Sarah! We’re glad you visited this Wonder of the Day®! Happy, happy, happy holidays to you! :-)

  11. Hi, I’m Mukund from Mrs. Caplin’s class. I learned that they call Santa many names in different countries. We are reading a book in class that is called The Family Under The Bridge, which takes place in Paris. They call Santa Father Christmas in Paris. I learned that St. Nick’s day is December 6. I also learned that Saint Nick was born in 270 A.D. and died in 343 A.D. I learned that he was born in a small Greek village. I really liked this wonder. Have a good Saint Nick’s Day.

    • What a super awesome comment, Mukund! It makes us really happy to hear that you enjoyed exploring this Wonder and learning new things about holiday traditions! Happy Saint Nick’s Day to you, too! :-)

    • First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Jazzy! We hope you have a super special day! Secondly, THANK YOU for letting us know you liked the video for this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  12. Wow! That’s so neat to have what Santa Clause is called in different parts of the world. Now, on Christmas night, I can say to my parents, “I wonder what Babbo Natale will give me this year?” They’d have no idea that I was speaking Italian. I also never knew that anyone knew or had a specific time or date that Santa was born on. I never knew that he was born in Greece in 270 A.D. (How do people know this stuff!)! I also thought that leaving your shoes in your doorway for Santa to put candy and goodies in was pretty cool. In first grade, our whole class did that, and I put out my red sparkly slipper, and the next day it was filled to the top with candy. But, I didn’t know what day to do it on (to put out the shoe) and since today is that day, I think I’ll try it tonight! But, I wonder why a shoe? I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense to put out your stocking? And a shoe is a place where you put your stinky feet in!? I’ll try to comment back later to tell you if the whole thing about putting your shoe out in the doorway works! Well, anyway, thanks for this wonderful wonder!
    I learned a lot so thanks a lot!!!

    • We really liked getting your comment, Leah! We can tell that you did a LOT of extra WONDERing about this Wonder of the Day®! We never thought about the stinky shoe thing either, but now we WONDER about that, too! Thanks for telling us all the things you learned about today! :-)

    • That sounds like a whole bunch of holiday fun, Terri! Thank you for stopping by Wonderopolis today and for leaving us this great comment! :-)

  13. Hi, Wonderopolis! This wonder is superb. I learned that Saint Nick in Sweden is a little brownie, while we have him as a grown man. Why is St. Nick’s Day on December 5th? How many years has St. Nick’s Day been around? I am wondering how they say St. Nick in Asia? I learned a lot from this wonder! I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about president Abraham Lincoln!

    • Hello, Lynn! We’re so glad you thought today’s Wonder was superb! That’s a really descriptive word, and we appreciate you sharing your comment with us! We’re not sure what they call St. Nick in Asia, so we will have to do some more WONDERing about that, but we REALLY like that you used the clues at the end of this Wonder to try and guess what Wonder #429 might be! Way to go! :-)

  14. Hi, I am Harshitha from Mrs. Caplin’s class.
    I never knew there was a man called Saint Nicholas. I don’t celebrate St. Nick’s day, and I never did it. I heard this today only in this cool wonder. I don’t know that many countries celebrate this holiday. I have my own tradition. I celebrate South Indian traditions. I wonder…how did Saint Nicholas give us candy and stuff even though he died in December 6, 343? Well, thanks for the new information I learned today about Saint Nicholas!

    • Thanks for sharing a little about your holiday traditions and also about the cool things you learned from exploring this Wonder of the Day, Harshitha! We’re WONDERing how people celebrate the holidays in Southern India? We’re sure some of our other Wonder Friends would love to learn more about that, too! Would you mind sharing more about how you and your family celebrate? :-)

  15. Don’t forget to leave a carrot or a turnip in your shoe as a present for Sint Niklaas’ beautiful white horse. It loves an occasional sugar cube, too, but that’s not very healthy for a horse.

    • Thank you for sharing another neat holiday tradition with everyone here in Wonderopolis today, Klara! It’s fun to learn new things from people all over the world! :-)

  16. Hello, I loved this wonder because I liked the cool Santa Clauses of the world. In class, we are reading a book about a hobo in Paris living under a bridge at Christmas time, and the story talked about Father Christmas. Thanks.

    • The holiday story you are reading in Mrs. Caplin’s class sounds really awesome, Wyatt! Many of your classmates have also shared that you guys are reading it! What a great personal connection to this St. Nick Wonder! :-)

  17. Hi, this is Leah and I’m back!
    Last night, I put out my shoes in my doorway and today when I got up to brush my teeth, I had completely forgotten about it and I tripped over my shoes! I found two big delicious candy canes in my shoes! I thought it was a fun experience and I’ll be sure to do it next year!

    • Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your super special holiday shoe-filling experience with us, Leah! What a SWEET surprise you got this morning! :-)

    • Yes we do, Moises, and we think learning something new every day is FUN! Thank you for the really nice comment you left for us! :-)

  18. Wow, Wonderopolis! I didn’t know he had that many names! I especially like the Italian one because I’m Italian. I can tell my grandparents that ‘Babbo Natale’ came to my house! Awesome!

    • What a great way to connect with your family’s Italian heritage at holiday time, Sharkysharky! We bet your grandparents will LOVE it when you share what you’ve learned about Babbo Natale! :-)

  19. I think that this wonder was amazing. I didn’t know Saint Nick was born in 270 A.D. I also didn’t know that sometimes he was called Nikolaos the Wonderworker. My family doesn’t do the pickle tradition, but maybe I will try it this year. I thought that everybody worldwide just called him Saint Nick or Santa Claus, but I learned from this wonder that there are many different names. This was a marvelous wonder.

    • We REALLY like hearing the great descriptive words you and your MC classmates are using in your comments to this Wonder of the Day® about St. Nick, Olivia! We like that you used the word “marvelous” in your comment! Awesome job! Be sure to let us know if you introduce your family to a new holiday tradition this season…the Christmas pickle! We can’t wait to hear which lucky person finds it in your house! :-)

    • We’re not sure how or where the girl in the video got her special message from Santa, James! We think he just knew where to send it! He IS Santa, after all! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Jessie! You know what? We think Santa’s favorite cookies are ALL the cookies that boys and girls around the world leave out for him to eat! We’re sure he loves them all! :-)

    • We thought so, too, Chance! We liked seeing the excitement on the girl’s face when she realized that Santa knew all about her, that she had been good all year, and even the exact things she wanted for Christmas! :-)

    • Well, we’re glad you stopped by to visit this Wonder of the Day®, then, David, so you could learn about the history of St. Nick! Thanks for commenting and letting us know you thought the video was cool, too! :-)

    • We appreciate your enthusiasm for this Wonder of the Day® and for Santa Claus, Ria! Thanks so much for commenting! :-)

  20. Hi, I am Harshitha from Mrs.Caplin’s class.
    My traditions are like dancing, singing, languages, religions and more, and dancing and singing are various types of them. One thing about singing is, when we start learning to sing, we always learn songs about Hindu gods. When someone just starts learning music, there is some basic stuff to learn than only we can learn by singing songs.

    There are many books of song to learn. If you finished all of those books, only you can be a music teacher. In the dancing, it is the same thing as music except you need to do some kind of step before you start the basic steps. (That is called NAMASKARAM). In my previous school, the main languages are: Tamil, Hindi, English and Sanscrit. Religions are: Christian, Hindu and Muslim, and also there are communities of Hindus and also intercommunities in communities. India has various diversity and it has a unique democratic government.

    In India, we don’t have any rules that we should not litter in the road. So, the streets will not be clean. The women will wear traditional clothes called saree. I lived in a state called Tamil Nadu and I also talk Tamil with my family. Tamil Nadu is in the way down but it is not an Island like Sri Lanka. I don’t even know that India is in the second place in the population until I read an article.

    We have many gods like: Ganesha, Krishna, Shiva, Balaji, Murugan, Durga Davi, Raman and more. The great two epics in India are called: Ramayanum and Mahabharadham.There are many languages in India. The nearest state to my sate (where I live is my state) is called Kerala. Taj Mahal is one of the 7 wonders which is in Delhi and Delhi is the capital of India. Architects will make a statue of gods in India. Temple is what we call the place were the statues are worshiped. The man who sings some songs and put some flowers under the statue’s (gods statue) leg is called the Priest. The Priest will put yogurt or milk on the statue. This act is called abishegam. They will wash the statues with water. Once when we worshiped, I saw my dad and grandma eating a part of the banana leaf. I also tried it and it was really funny when we eat it. Women or girls will put some designs which come from some kind of leaf. Women or girls do it for marriage or some kind of functions. Well, thanks for giving me a chance to share my traditions and I am going to learn more about my traditions.

    • WOW, Harshitha! Thank you so much for sharing all of these great traditions with us today and taking extra time to explain what each one means. We learned A LOT from you! We think learning about different cultures and traditions is VERY interesting! Thank you for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • That sounds like a fun holiday tradition, Steven! Some Wonder Friends think it’s tough to sleep on Christmas eve…they’re so excited for what the next morning will bring! :-)

    • That’s a great question, Monkey Freak! We really like to WONDER about all kinds of things and about the world around us, and we know all of our WONDER Friends do, too, so we thought a place named WONDEROPOLIS might be a WONDERful place to hang out and learn new things together each day! :-)

  21. My teacher told me to leave a comment on here because she really likes this site. I agree with her, but I think you should do an article on narwhals, and why they have a tusk. They are really cool.

    • We’re so glad to learn that you AND your teacher both like Wonderopolis, Awesome! Thanks for suggesting that there be a future Wonder of the Day® about narwhals! We think that’s a GREAT idea! :-)

    • Hi, James! Thank you for sharing your feelings about the video for this Wonder of the Day®! We appreciate your comment! :-)

  22. Dear Wonderopolis,
    What is up with the Christmas pickle??????????????????????????
    From the most awesomest, most radical person in the world, SARAH

    • Hello, Sarah! The Christmas pickle is such an awesome tradition to share with family! It’s fun to search for it on the tree and see the look of excitement on the face of the person who finds it! :-)

  23. Hi! We love Wonderopolis! You may remember us from Room 20 5th grade Mapleshade School. We are in that class. We are excited to see tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day! Your website is awesome! It rocks!

    • Your comment made our day today, Maria and Irene! What super nice things you said about Wonderopolis! We’re really happy that both of you (and your Mapleshade School classmates) enjoy learning new things in Wonderopolis. We like learning here each day, too! :-)

    • GO, Sunnibee! We appreciate your comment very much! Thanks for letting us know you liked the video for this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Well thanks, Mackenzie! We are glad you enjoy your visits to Wonderopolis– we love putting videos up for great Wonder Friends like you! :)

  24. I love this article it’s so cool! I wonder why Santa Claus has so many different names? I hope you wondrous people keep making wonders cause I really enjoy them!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who was St. Nick?
  • When is Saint Nicholas Day?
  • What other names for Santa Claus are used around the world?

Wonder Gallery

santa_shutterstock_46391863Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Do you celebrate Saint Nicholas Day? If not, why not start?

On December 5, set your shoes outside your door. Be sure to let your parents know why your shoes are there instead of put away where they’re supposed to be!

In the morning, check your shoes first thing to see if Saint Nicholas visited. Did he leave you any coins or candy? We hope so!

What other holiday traditions does your family observe? Depending on where you live, there are all sorts of special holiday traditions.

Have you ever heard of the legend of the Christmas pickle? According to an old German tradition, you are supposed to hang a pickle as the last decoration on your Christmas tree. This should be done by your parents, and it should be well-hidden among the branches.

On Christmas Day, the first child to find the Christmas pickle receives a special blessing for the coming year and an extra gift. Maybe you can start such a tradition with your family this year.

If you have other special holiday traditions you’d like to share with us, email us or post about your traditions on Facebook. We’d love to learn more about our Wonder Friends’ special holiday traditions!


Still Wondering

Look at how people with different beliefs celebrate winter holidays at National Geographic Expeditions’ culture goggles: same holy land, different holidays.


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We cannot tell a lie. Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is really, really tall.

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