December 6 is traditionally celebrated as Saint Nicholas Day (Nikolaustag) in honour of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, students, merchants, archers, sailors, fishermen, pawnbrokers, thieves and the falsely accused. Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, southern Anatolia, and became well known for his good deeds in the fourth century AD.
In Germany children put a plate or their shoes and boots in front of the bedroom door on the evening of December 5. As tradition goes, if they have been kind or well behaved then sweets or small gifts will be left overnight by the mysterious Saint Nicholas. A popular tradition in Neuss.
In some catholic areas of Germany a man dressed as a bishop travels from house to house. Similar customs can also be found in US cities with strong German influence like Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis or Columbus.