Gifts: Saint Nicholas’s Day Gifts
In addition to New Year’s Day, some medieval Europeans also gave gifts on St. Nicholas’s Day. The St. Nicholas’s Day gift differed slightly from the New Year’s gift. On the saint’s day adults gave gifts to youngsters as a way of honoring the patron saint of children (see also St. Nicholas). Some researchers think that the custom of giving gifts to children on St. Nicholas’s Day started as early as the twelfth century. At that time nuns from central France started to leave gifts on the doorsteps of poor families with children on St. Nicholas’s Eve. These packages contained nuts and oranges and other good things to eat. Some researchers believe that ordinary people adopted the custom, spreading it from France to other parts of northern Europe. Other writers suppose that the folklore surrounding St. Martin may have inspired the traditions that turned St. Nicholas into a gift giver. In past centuries St. Martin, another bishop saint, was said to ride through the countryside delivering treats to children on the eve of his feast day (see also Martinmas).