St. Nicholas Day on December 6 celebrates of course carries some connection to Christmas and Santa Clause, but there is much more to this holiday and St. Nicholas than that. Although St. Nicholas partially inspired the Christmas and Santa Clause that we all know and love, St. Nicholas actually derives from a different kind of tale. Let’s learn about St. Nicholas and what this day is truly about.
St Nicolas Day is observed on December 6th in the West, although in the East Christian countries it is celebrated on the 19th. If you don’t know who St Nicolas is, you’ll more than likely still know of his American version Santa Claus, or the British version of Father Christmas. The latter two give their presents on Christmas Day, but this saint gives his out on the 6th.
History of St Nicholas Day
The actual Saint Nicolas was a man born in Turkey during the Roman Empire, who lived a life of Christianity from a very young age. He is written off as being an especially benevolent soul, caring for children and helping the poor and sick when he could.
We couldn’t pinpoint the exact date that St Nicolas Day first came into being, but it seems that this day has been observed for a long time, honoring the saint that would become the basis for the beloved Santa Claus.
How to celebrate St Nicholas Day
One thing that St Nicolas was known for, according to the records we have of his time, was giving small gifts in secret – usually of money. One thing he was said to do was leave coins in shoes which were left out for him; this would translate into the Christmas stocking we hang on our mantelpieces.
Across the globe, St Nicolas Day is celebrated with parades, feasts, even festivals. Plenty of children in different parts of Europe will wake up to presents on this day, and its also another date for the grown-ups to have an excuse to crack open a bottle of alcohol – or two.
St Nicolas has an evil counterpart too in some parts of the world; in Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary – the demonic Krampus comes around to punish misbehaving children with the threat of capturing them in a basket or sack and carrying them down to a fiery damnation…quite a strong contrast to kindly old St Nic.
If you want to celebrate this saint, join hundreds of thousands of observers all over the world by hanging up a stocking, or leaving out a shoe so St Nicholas can fill it during the night. Give your friends and family a surprise to wake up to on the 6th and pop some chocolate coins in their coat pocket, or simply get your loved ones together and raise a glass to the spirit of benevolence and good cheer.
History of St. Nicholas Day
St. Nicholas derived from Nicholas of Myra and was a bishop in 4th century Greece. He was known for selling off his own items and then giving the money to the poor. He would commonly leave coins in people’s shoes and dedicated his entire life to serving people who were sick and suffering. This is how he gained his saint status, and is what inspired St. Nicholas Day (also commonly known as Feast Day or the Feast of St. Nicholas).
One well-known story of St. Nicholas involves a dowry for a father’s three daughters. In the third century, it was common for fathers to offer money to prospective husbands. However, one poor father with three daughters did not have money to do this. St. Nicholas paid for all three daughters’ dowries by leaving gold in their shoes.
As time passed St. Nicholas Day began in different ways. In Italy, this day was celebrated with feasts, gift-giving, and festivals. In other European countries like Germany and the Netherlands, children would leave their shoes or special St. Nicholas boot in front of the fireplace or front door at night and find presents in them in the morning. The history of St. Nicholas and his good deeds was part of the inspiration of the modern-day Santa Claus and Father Christmas, which is why there are some current traditions of leaving gifts in people’s boots or shoes (or stockings).