Have you ever heard of St. Nicholas the “wonderworker“?
The festival of St. Nicholas of Myra, the bishop who was born in 3rd century in Turkey and who is the patron saint of Bari (as well as other towns throughout Italy), is celebrated in most northern European countries on December 6th.
Many stories and legends are told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds, and of the miracles he could perform, and he is considered the protector and helper of those in trouble and need. Saint Nicholas in fact is the patron saint of a great variety of people: children, students, sailors, bankers, scholars, travellers, merchants, judges, victims of judicial mistakes.
What the majority of people do not know is that it was precisely Saint Nicholas who became the model for Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, and that’s how it all began!
On the evening of December 5th children in Holland and Germany put their shoes in front of the fireplace or outside the door of their house and the next morning they find a present in their shoes: a small toy or sweets. They also leave carrots and hay in their shoes for saint Nicholas’s horse.
On the night of December 5th in fact Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, as the Dutch call him, brings presents to every good child. Well, actually not to ALL good children. St. Nicholas brings gifts and sweets only to the children who were good, polite and helpful the previous year. If they were naughty children, they might find a tree branch in their shoes or, even worse, they could be taken away in a big sack by St. Nicholas’s assistant, called Ruprecht!
So what do you think of this tradition? What does it remind you of?