The Saint Nicholas Day Snow by Charlotte Riggle

December is here and children all over the world are getting excited about their favorite holidays!  Christmas will take place on the 25th... Boxing Day will take place on the 26th... Kwanzaa will begin on the 26th and will last until January 1st... and... Hanukkah (2020 only) will begin on the 10th and will last until the 18th.  Most people will be familiar with these holidays... even if it's only because they recognize their names.  But... there is another holiday in December that takes place on the 6th...  It's Saint Nicholas Day!  Have you ever heard of Saint Nicholas Day?  Who is Saint Nicholas?  (Hint... he's NOT Santa Claus...)  What did Saint Nicholas do to deserve his own special day?  What are some of the traditions associated with Saint Nicholas Day?  The Saint Nicholas Day Snow by Charlotte Riggle is a children's story that will teach you everything you need to know about Saint Nicholas and his holiday.  Keep reading to learn more about The Saint Nicholas Day Snow and how you can use it during your language arts instruction.

Learn about Saint Nicholas and the Saint Nicholas Day traditions in The Saint Nicholas Day Snow written by Charlotte Riggle. #kellysclassroomonline

Disclosure: Affiliate links to Amazon are included in this post.

Author's Summary

The Saint Nicholas Day Snow 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. It's all familiar, comfortable, and delightful. And yet Elizabeth is worried. She's spending the night with Catherine because her grandmother is ill, and her parents are heading to the hospital to see her. The brief references to Elizabeth's grandmother in the main story are developed into a fully realized wordless story-within-a-story in the corner of each spread. Both stories are filled with kindness, prayer, faith, and love. And snow. At the end of the day, the girls set out their shoes (with apples and carrots for St. Nicholas's horse), and their parents pray and keep vigil for Elizabeth's grandmother. All of them, in the end, receive joy.

🍎 Author: Charlotte Riggle
🍎 Illustrator: R.J. Hughes
🍎 Publisher: Phoenix Flare Press
🍎 Date: October 17, 2017
🍎 Pages: 48

Learn about Saint Nicholas and the Saint Nicholas Day traditions in The Saint Nicholas Day Snow written by Charlotte Riggle. #kellysclassroomonline

Saint Nicholas vs. Santa Claus

Contrary to popular belief... Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus are not the same people! Before reading The Saint Nicholas Day Snow with your students, it's important to make sure your students understand this. If your students listen to or read this story thinking that it's about Santa Claus... they are going to be very confused!
  • Santa Claus is a fictional character who lives at the North Pole with Mrs. Claus.  His elves make toys in a workshop while Santa makes a list of who gets what.  Then on Christmas Eve, he delivers presents to good little boys and girls while they are asleep.  He usually leaves their presents under the tree and in stockings.  Santa Claus also eats the cookies people set out for him.
  • Saint Nicholas, on the other hand, was a real person who lived from 270 to 343AD.  He was also known as Saint Nicholas of Myra, Nicholas of Bari, and Nicholas the Wonderworker.  Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children... having saved three children from being sold as slaves into marriage and bringing three others back to life after they were murdered.  He was also known for his generosity and secret gift-giving to those in need.  
  • It is believed that the folktale of Santa Claus is based on the good deeds of Saint Nicholas.  After the Protestant Reformation in Europe, Saint Nicholas was relegated to the history books... except for in Holland where they kept his story alive and called him Sinterklaas.  Later when Dutch families immigrated to the New World and took their traditions with them... Sinterklaas was anglicized into Santa Claus.  Saint Nicholas... Sinterklaas... Santa Claus... you can see how the history of one evolved into the folktale of the other over time.

Learn about Saint Nicholas and the Saint Nicholas Day traditions in The Saint Nicholas Day Snow written by Charlotte Riggle. #kellysclassroomonline

What is Saint Nicholas Day?

Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated each year on December 6th.  It is a day of food, family, and friends and a day in which people remember Saint Nicholas's generosity toward others.  Although people from different parts of the world celebrate Saint Nicholas Day differently, there are some similarities among them:
  • setting out shoes filled with carrots and hay for Saint Nicholas's horse in exchange for some gifts
  • receiving gifts such as fruits, nuts, chocolate, candies, cookies, coins, and small trinkets
  • giving and receiving oranges and as a symbol of the gold Saint Nicholas shared
  • sharing these gifts with family and friends
  • sharing a meal with family and friends
As you can see, Saint Nicholas Day is about the spirit of giving and sharing with others... not the accumulation of loot!  Even though gifts are exchanged, the gifts are small, modest, and symbolic of Saint Nicholas's generosity.

Learn about Saint Nicholas and the Saint Nicholas Day traditions in The Saint Nicholas Day Snow written by Charlotte Riggle. #kellysclassroomonline

Reading The Saint Nicholas Day Snow

Reading The Saint Nicholas Day Snow with your students is a fun way to get students excited about the December holiday season.  Your students will love looking at the illustrations and learning about Saint Nicholas Day and how it's celebrated.  They will also enjoy comparing it to some of the holidays they may celebrate with their families.  There is a lot to unpack with The Saint Nicholas Day Snow so if you are going to read it with your students, I suggest reading it over a period of a couple of days and reading it multiple times.

Learn about Saint Nicholas and the Saint Nicholas Day traditions in The Saint Nicholas Day Snow written by Charlotte Riggle. #kellysclassroomonline

First Reading

When introducing a new picture book to my students, I like to do a quick picture walk to preview the story.  Having the opportunity to study and talk about the illustrations ahead of time helps students to make sense of what they will be reading or listening to.  This will be particularly important when reading The Saint Nicholas Day Snow because there are actually TWO storylines in the book  The main storyline is contained within the text and main illustrations.  The secondary storyline occurs in the smaller illustrations in the lower-left corners.  

Before reading The Saint Nicholas Day Snow, cover those illustrations in the left corners with post-its.  Doing so will enable your students to focus on one storyline at a time while you picture walk and read the story.  Preview the pages with a picture walk like normal.  What do you see happening on the pages?  (Each double-page spread shows an event from the story, a church named for Saint Nicholas, and a drawing of what Saint Nicholas looks like in different parts of the world.)  Who are the characters in the story?  What can we learn about these characters?  What are they doing?  How are they feeling?  What can we learn about Saint Nicholas Day from the illustrations?  After you've had the opportunity to preview all of the pages, go ahead and read The Saint Nicholas Day Snow like you would normally read any story.  Keep the post-its in place until your next reading.

Learn about Saint Nicholas and the Saint Nicholas Day traditions in The Saint Nicholas Day Snow written by Charlotte Riggle. #kellysclassroomonline

Second Reading

During your first preview and reading of The Saint Nicholas Day Snow, the illustrations of the book's second storyline were covered with post-its.  Review what your students learned and remembered from that first reading.  Before reading the story again, take another picture walk through the illustrations, removing the post-its from each page as you talk about them.  What is happening in these illustrations?  What is going on with the grandmother?  How are the people in the illustrations feeling?  How do the illustrations in this storyline connect with the main story?  This would be a good time for some vocabulary development... these are parallel storylines that are happening simultaneously.
  • In parallel stories, two storylines run side-by-side.  Sometimes these storylines intersect.  Sometimes they don't.
  • Simultaneous means to exist and/or take place at the same time.
After your minilesson about parallel stories and your picture walk, read The Saint Nicholas Day Snow again.  What did your students notice this time that they didn't notice before?  How does knowing about the grandmother being in the hospital change the mood of the story?  Does it change their feelings about the events?  Are your students showing a sense of empathy for the characters they may not have demonstrated before?

Learn about Saint Nicholas and the Saint Nicholas Day traditions in The Saint Nicholas Day Snow written by Charlotte Riggle. #kellysclassroomonline

Geography and Map Skills

On the left-hand side of each double-page spread in The Saint Nicholas Day Snow, Charlotte Riggle included photographs of churches from all over the world that were named for Saint Nicholas.  Each photograph is marked with the city and country in which the churches can be found and the approximate years they were built.  Pull out a world map and some pushpins.  Work together with your students to find the city and country you live in.  Mark it with a pushpin.  Then work together to find the locations of these churches and mark them with pushpins as well.  How many locations did you mark?  Which continents and countries have the most churches named for Saint Nicholas?  Are there any locations on the map that surprise you?  After looking at the map with all of the locations marked on it, what questions do you have?  How can you find the answers to your questions?

Learn about Saint Nicholas and the Saint Nicholas Day traditions in The Saint Nicholas Day Snow written by Charlotte Riggle. #kellysclassroomonline

To learn more about Saint Nicholas, visit Charlotte Riggle's website and read her post called The Real St. Nicholas.   You can also listen to her read The Saint Nicholas Day Snow in this Youtube video:

Kelly's Classroom Online


  1. Kelly, thanks for such a beautiful review! And the activities are wonderful. I love the way you suggest helping children understand the connections between the two story lines. Thank you!

    1. Hi Charli! You wrote a beautiful book and I was glad to write about it. I hope you had a nice Saint Nicholas Day with your family! <3

  2. Very helpful review. Really helped me to understand and learn more about this wonderful book. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love all the ideas! I think we will have to go back and read it again :-) I love the St. Nicholas and Santa playmobil figures!! I've never seen that before

    1. Thanks Nadia! The Saint Nicholas Day Snow is definitely worth reading again and again!