December 6 is St. Nick's Day. For many kids in the Heartland, that means they woke up to small gifts stuffed in their shoes or in their stockings.
This is just one of the many smaller holiday traditions celebrated here in the Heartland.
Wednesday night, many kids put out their shoes by the fireplace in hopes that St. Nick would drop them an early Christmas gift.
Usually it's a small toy, candy, or even fruit.
Where this tradition came from is debatable, but many people think it has roots in Germany.
That would explain why it's so popular in the Heartland with our heavy German influence.
Another holiday tradition is the Christmas pickle. It's not an actual pickle, but rather an ornament that looks like a pickle that is hung on the tree on Christmas Eve night.
The decoration is hidden with the finder receiving either a reward or good fortune for the following year.
Some families opt to give another smaller gift on Christmas morning.
There are numerous stories about how this tradition got started, but most believe it's actually an American tradition.
A prisoner during the Civil War was starving on Christmas Eve and asked for a pickle. The guard picked one up for him and when the prisoner survived, he credited the pickle.
So he started the tradition in his Christmas tree for his children, and it expanded from there.
Many families also participate in Elf on a Shelf.
A great way to help encourage small children to behave better is Elf on a Shelf.
He hangs up in different parts of the house, watching kids to make sure they're being good.
These scout elves are the eyes and ears of Santa Claus.
Every night, the elf reports back to Santa. No good deed for kids go unnoticed.
If kids are good, the elf will tell Santa, and they'll get their presents for Christmas.
By the way, this elf pops into a lot of Heartland homes and even some schools.
This is a fairly new tradition as the book "Elf on a Shelf" was published just seven years ago.
But nearly 2 million copies later, this tradition has taken off.
Steve and Terry Niederkorn of Poplar Bluff, Mo. sent a picture and story of Jolly, their grandchildren's Elf on a Shelf. Jolly is the name given to the Elf on a Shelf by the Niederkorn's twin 3-year-old grandchildren in Searcy, Arkansas. In the picture to the right, Jolly is toasting a marshmallow for breakfast. The picture was taken by their daughter, Lorie Veazey. Jolly is a big hit with Charlie and Maggie. When Charlie does something not nice to his sister, Maggie, she says she is going to tell Jolly for his report to Santa. Charlie tells her he's sorry and won't do it again. Now to figure a way to make Jolly work all year long!
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