06

December

2010

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Happy St. Nicholas Day

by

Today is St. Nicholas Day. Christmas may be a little over two weeks away, but gift-giving doesn't have to wait until the 25th.

The tradition of Saint Nicholas Day, usually on 6 December, is a festival for children in many countries in Europe related to surviving legends of the saint, and particularly his reputation as a bringer of gifts. The American Santa Claus, as well as the Anglo-Canadian and British Father Christmas, derive from these legends. "Santa Claus" is itself derived from the Dutch Sinterklaas.—Wikipedia

Apparently the man we have come to call Santa was also, according to Wikipedia, "the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, and students."

I like the idea of the time of year being special, and little gifts that might appear each night, rather than the large, pressured extravaganza that usually happens on the 25th.

In many places St. Nicholas is the main gift giver. His feast day, St. Nicholas Day, is December 6, which falls early in the Advent season. Some places he arrives in the middle of November and moves about the countryside, visiting schools and homes to find out if children have been good. Other places he comes in the night and finds carrots and hay for his horse or donkey along with children's wish lists. Small treats are left in shoes or stockings so the children will know he has come. Where St. Nicholas is prominent, his day, not Christmas, is the primary gift giving day. Parties may be held on the eve, December 5th, and shoes or stockings left for St. Nicholas to fill during the night. Children will find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies. St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself.—St. Nicholas Center

Especially important is that last line, "gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself." Something to keep in mind this holiday season.

Elizabeth Periale

Die Fläche, St. Nikolas with toys, [1905-1910]. More images.

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