Due to a European affect on my aspect of the household, I grew up celebrating the custom of St. Nicholas Day on December sixth.
Many individuals simply know St. Nicholas by the title of Santa Claus. Whereas the trendy determine of Santa derives from St. Nick, you’d hardly discover this patron saint of youngsters making toys on the North Pole.
The Story of St. Nicholas
The true man behind the fictional modern-day Santa Claus and Father Christmas was St. Nicholas of Myra. Born in 280 A.D. in Asia Minor, he misplaced his dad and mom at an early age, although they left him nice wealth once they died. The true St. Nicholas was identified for giving nameless presents to assist these in want and was finally made a bishop of Myra.
The nice bishop died on December sixth; thus today is now Saint Nicholas Day.
For a captivating rationalization of how a person with a beard, reindeer, and the North Pole got here to be related to St. Nick, see this podcast episode about Santa Claus and the roots of the story in Finnish tradition.
Why the Reward Giving?
The historical past of leaving sneakers or stockings out on St. Nick’s Day possible stems from the story of him leaving small luggage of gold for a person and his three daughters. Throughout these instances girls needed to deliver a dowry to a wedding with a view to discover a good husband.
St. Nick heard of a person who had three daughters however couldn’t afford the dowry. With out it, the daughters would most definitely enter a lifetime of prostitution as a substitute of with the ability to marry. Based on legend, St. Nick threw three luggage of gold by way of their window at evening (some say down the chimney) the place they discovered them the subsequent morning. This saved them from a life at a brothel and cemented his place because the patron of gift-giving.
St. Nicholas Day Across the World
Numerous cultures all over the world rejoice the feast of St. Nicholas. It’s additionally noticed in Orthodox and Catholic faiths (and generally protestant Christian ones). Our family custom is a hybrid of a number of cultural traditions associated to St. Nick.
That is how some cultures all over the world bear in mind today:
Shen’Kollë in Greece
Greece (in addition to Albania, Serbia, and Bulgaria), rejoice St Nicholas on the eve of his feast day, December fifth. At the present time is named Shen’Kolli i Dimnit (Saint Nicholas of Winter). In these cultures, today is certainly one of fasting, not gift-giving. The truth is, on today, most individuals abstain from meat, quick utterly, or put together a feast to eat simply after midnight.
Sinterklaas in Belgium & Netherlands
In these nations, kids depart their boots in entrance of the fireside for St. Nicholas. Typically, they embody a carrot or a deal with for his horses Legend has it that he arrived along with his horses through sleigh or steamboat in these areas.
St. Nicholas and Père Fouettard in France
In France, St. Nicholas arrives on December sixth and offers kids small presents and sweets. Within the weeks main as much as today, dad and mom and grandparents inform tales of the legend of St. Nick. This included a disturbing however fashionable one.
The story goes that three kids wandered away and received misplaced. A butcher lured them into his store the place he killed them and salted them away in a big tub. Based on legend, St. Nicholas revived the boys and introduced them residence to their households. (No less than there’s a contented ending!)
This story earned St. Nicholas his popularity as a protector of youngsters in France. The butcher (often known as “Père Fouettard,” that means “Father Whipper”) is imagined to observe St. Nicholas in penance. He’ll depart lumps of coal and even whip misbehaving kids. In France, statues and work usually painting this occasion, exhibiting the saint with kids in a barrel.
Sankt Nikolaus and Krampusnacht in Germany and Austria
The best way our household honors St. Nicholas primarily facilities on this custom. In Germany and Austria, kids miss a boot for St. Nicholas and obtain small toys, cash, or sweet. In these areas, St. Nicholas nonetheless clothes like a bishop and is commonly portrayed on a horse. Just like the French story, a sinister companion accompanies St. Nick, on this case, the much more terrifying demon-like Krampus.
In these areas, they don’t fiddle with an Elf on the Shelf to encourage youngsters to be good. They invoke the legend of the Krampus! This beast is believed to punish kids who misbehave. He’ll seize significantly naughty kids in his sack and carry them away to his lair. The Krampus was derived from previous pagan Winter Solistice celebrations and has roots in Germanic folklore. Its affect has unfold to Austria and all through components of Europe.
December fifth is named Krampus Evening, or Krampusnacht, the place the bushy satan seems on the streets. Historically younger males gown up because the Krampus on the evening of December fifth. They’ll roam the streets scary kids with rusty chains and bells.
Our St. Nicholas Day Traditions
Spooky tales are enjoyable in their very own means, however by no means worry … there’s a extra cheerful strategy to rejoice St. Nicholas Day! He was a great bishop identified for serving to others, in spite of everything. We honor St. Nicholas feast day in our household by celebrating in a number of methods. The result’s an adaptation of a mixture of celebrations from all over the world. Having some vacation enjoyable properly earlier than Christmas morning is an effective way to kick off Introduction.
Leaving Footwear or Boots Out on December fifth
We miss a shoe or boot within the hallway on the night of December fifth for St. Nick’s arrival. That is just like the thought of doing stockings, although we do this as properly on Christmas Day. Within the boots, my youngsters normally discover:
- Cash: Every baby receives some quarters of their shoe to suggest the cash St. Nicholas gave.
- Wholesome Treats: As an alternative of a number of sweet canes and sugary treats I’ll depart some wholesome treats. These can embody darkish chocolate, small luggage of nuts, or do-it-yourself marshmallows.
- Oranges: These signify the gold St. Nick gave away and my youngsters love oranges this time of yr. We didn’t use to get them through the winter, however now we reside within the south they’re in season even when the Christmas tree is up!
Random Acts of Kindness
A very powerful lesson from the legend of St. Nicholas is his generosity. To assist us all bear in mind this, we make some extent to do random acts of kindness this time of yr. We brainstorm artistic methods to assist these in want in our native space. We’ll then set about our “secret” mission to deliver some pleasure to others.
Prior to now, we’ve finished issues like:
- Drop off grocery retailer present playing cards to households in want.
- Give a giant field of wrapped presents and garments to households who want them.
- Anonymously pay the utility payments of somebody in want.
- Wrap presents or donate gadgets to native foster applications.
The record of prospects is countless, and it’s at all times a great lesson in gratitude for all our blessings.
The Touring Christmas St. Nicholas (or Angel)
That is maybe probably the most enjoyable custom and one I hope you’ll think about beginning in your personal space. Within the spirit of St. Nicholas Day, we begin a touring Christmas St. Nicholas (or Angel) custom. It sparks generosity throughout our space. Right here’s the way it works:
- Get some form of small St. Nicholas statue or angel statue.
- Consider one other household in your space you wish to go on the statue to and one thing variety to do for them. This may very well be a small present, a household exercise, or simply an act of kindness.
- Anonymously depart the statue on their entrance door mat one night. Embody a letter that they’ve been touched by the spirit of Christmas generosity and it’s their flip to go on a sort act. We additionally print out a paper that “We’ve been visited by St. Nicholas.” This means they’ll put up it of their entrance window so others know they’ve already been visited.
Whether or not you rejoice St. Nicholas Day or not, a random act of kindness is an effective way to honor the Christmas season. We definitely want extra of it on this planet. Joyful Feast of St. Nicholas, from my household to yours!
Does your loved ones rejoice St. Nicholas Day? What are your traditions?