CINCINNATI - As the air turns colder and snow begins to lightly fall, dreams of all things Christmas come to mind: Hanging up lights on the icy roof, setting up the prickly tree with ornaments big and small, and reaching into dusty storage boxes to pull out stockings to be hung.
But a lesser-known holiday comes well before Santa takes off on his sleigh: St. Nicholas Day.
Though not observed nationally, cities with strong German influences -- Cincinnati for example -- celebrate St. Nicholas Day, or St. Nick's Day, on Dec. 6.
Much like children on Christmas Eve, little boys and girls celebrating this holiday put one empty shoe or sock outside their rooms and hope to find candy and small presents in them the next morning. If they have been naughty, they meet the same fate as Santa’s naughty list: A big lump of coal.
But who is this mysterious St. Nicholas that reminds so much of Santa Claus?
According to ListVerse.com , St. Nicholas, who was the bishop of Myra during the third century, was a real person who was well known for good deeds that we associate with the holiday season.
Nicholas is said to have worked as a sailor or fisherman, though it was likely that his family owned a business in managing a fishing fleet.
When his parents died, Nicholas received his inheritance and is said to have given it all away to the poor.
He was also known for coming to the defense of those falsely accused and helped to prevent their execution.
Early on he was viewed as a saint by others.
A well-known and unusual deed St. Nicholas is recognized for is described in a legend about a terrible famine that struck the island of Myra. The legend says that a malicious butcher lured three children into his house and killed them to put their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them as ham. St. Nicholas is said to have seen this horrific crime and was able to resurrect the three boys from the barrel.
The legend of St. Nick that has remained most popular is that of a poor man and his three daughters. Legend says that this man's daughters would remain unmarried because he did not have enough money to pay a proper dowry. When St. Nicholas heard of this man's sorrow, he wanted to help.
When nightfall came, St. Nick went to the poor man's home and filled the daughters drying stockings set out by the fire with money. This was thought to be the origin story of why we hang our stockings by the fire with care around this time of year.
St. Nick is known for gift-giving, but always wanted to be secretive due to his shyness and to save the pride of those he helped.
Today, the generous St. Nicholas is celebrated by many with a feast on Dec. 6.
So if your little girls or boys leave their shoes somewhere they shouldn’t tonight, a new tradition could be made by putting a small present in them… or a lump of coal.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.