Saint Nicholas Day
Before there was Santa Claus, there was Saint Nicholas, known traditionally as the “bearer of gifts”. On December 6th many Europeans still celebrate Saint Nicholas Day, and many Christmas traditions were originally a part of this holiday. To find out more about Saint Nicholas Day, read on!
Who is Saint Nicholas?
We may think of Saint Nick, Father Christmas or Santa Claus as being a mythical person, but Saint Nicholas was a real 4th Century Greek Saint who was admired for being kind and helping those in need. He was renowned for secretly giving gifts and placing coins in the shoes of the needy. In one story Saint Nicholas helped a man who had three daughters who couldn’t marry by throwing bags of money in their house when they came of age, but being very modest he did it in the night so the man would thank God instead. He is the patron saint of children, unmarried girls, and sailors.
A mosaic of Saint Nicholas from Turkey
Where in the World?
The tradition of Saint Nicholas Day is still observed all across Europe, from France to Bulgaria. Each country has its own legends of the saint, and some have different ways of celebrating. Europeans aren’t the only ones who get to have a big feast for the “bearer of gifts”; even in North America cities that have large populations of German descent celebrate the day.
In Holland special "St. Nick" shoes are made for gifts
Many traditions from Saint Nicholas Day may seem familiar to Christmas celebrations. Here are a few!
- Children receive gifts in their shoes, like coins and apples (this is where the Christmas stocking comes from!)
- There is a large meal with family and friends to celebrate
- In some families dad will dress up as Saint Nick on the eve before the special day (in the folklore Saint Nicholas would arrive with his companion Black Peter, who dealt with bad children while St. Nick rewarded the good!)
Have Your Say
What do you think of Saint Nicholas Day? Does your family celebrate, and how? Let us know in the Comments section below!