Where I grew up in Milwaukee, WI, St. Nick's day is a day kids look forward to just as much as Halloween. Ok, I'll admit, that's a whole lot of hyperbole, but St. Nick's Day (or St. Nicholas' Day) is very popular in the Milwaukee. You can read about its popularity, here. I can remember having competitive 'discussions' in grade school about what you got from St. Nick that morning.
Wait, what? You don't know what St. Nick's day is? Well, here's a link to a Wikipedia articlethat sums it up nicely. To quote from the article:
In Germany, Nikolaus is usually celebrated on a small scale. Many children put a boot, called Nikolaus-Stiefel, outside the front door on the night of December 5 to December 6. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good.In our family, December 5 was the day we got our stocking filled with candy and a toy. As we all got older, St. Nick's day became all about the candy. Even in college my mother would mail us a box of treats for December 5, which was great as it always coincided with getting ready for finals. And if people will indulge me, here's a quick link to a set of photos of our daughter celebrating her first St. Nick's Day.
While I was preparing this post, I became aware that another holiday tradition of my family's is considered unusual. I am talking about, of course, the Christmas Pickle. The story is that the last ornament on the tree is a glass pickle. Then, whomever finds the ornament receives an extra gift on Christmas day. My family being my family, it was usually some sort of food (we like to eat). Somewhere, I heard the version that it used to be an actual pickle that was put on the tree, and the person who found it got to eat it (pickles being delicious). Everyone household in my family owns a glass pickle ornament. And whomever finds it gets an extra gift.
As I started to research this to find substantiated sources so as to not show my family as a group of lunatics, I was alarmed to learn that there is a lot of controversy surrounding the pickle ornament. This site sums up the variety of pickle ornament origins nicely. So, I was disappointed to find that the Christmas pickle ornament is likely someone's ingenious marketing ploy. Nonetheless, the tradition isn't hurting anyone, and someone gets a little something extra for Christmas.
What does your family do that's different for Christmas? What sort of reference questions have you answered about different holiday traditions?