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St. Nicholas Day
December 6th


St. Nicholas, also called Nicholas of Bari, Nicholas of Myra, and Santa Claus, flourished in the 4th century in Asia Minor near the modern Turkish city of Finike. One of the most popular minor saints commemorated in the Eastern and Western churches, his feast day is December 6th. He is now traditionally associated with the festival of Christmas.


Nicholas' existence is not attested by any historical document, so nothing certain is known of his life except that he was probably bishop of Myra in the 4th century. According to tradition, he was born in the ancient Lycian seaport city of Patara, and, when young, he traveled to Palestine and Egypt. He became bishop of Myra soon after returning to Lycia. He was imprisoned during the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians but was released under the rule of Emperor Constantine the Great and attended the first Council of Nicaea in 325. After fhis death he was buried in his church at Myra, and by the 6th century his shrine there had become well known. In 1087 Italian sailors or merchants stole his alleged remains from Myra and took them to Bari, Italy; this removal greatly increased the saint's popularity in Europe and Bari became one of the most crowded of all pilgrimage centers. Nicholas' relics remain enshrined in the 11th-century basilica of San Nicola in Bari.

Nicholas' reputation for generosity and kindness gave rise to legends of miracles he performed for the poor and unhappy. He was reputed to have given marriage dowries of gold to 3 girls whom poverty would otherwise have forced into lives of prostitution, and he restored to life 3 children who had been chopped up by a butcher and put in a brine tub. In the Middle Ages, devotion to Nicholas extended to all parts of Europe. He became the patron saint of Russia and Greece; of charitable fraternities and guilds; of children, sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, and pawnbrokers; and of such cities as Fribourg, Switzerland, and Moscow. Thousands of European churches were dedicated to him, one as early as the 6th century, built by the Roman emperor Justinian I, at Constantinople (now Istanbul). Nicholas' miracles were a favorite subject for medieval artists and liturgical plays, and his traditional feast day was the occasion for the ceremonies of the Boy Bishop, a widespread European custom in which a boy was elected bishop and reigned until Holy Innocents' Day (December 28).

After the Reformation, Nicholas' cult disappeared in all the Protestant countries of Europe except Holland, where his legend persisted as Sinterklaas (a Dutch variant of the name Saint Nicholas). Dutch colonists took this tradition with them to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the American colonies in the 17th century. Sinterklaas was adopted by the country's English-speaking majority under the name Santa Claus, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. The resulting image of Santa Claus in the U.S. crystallized in the 19th century, and he has ever since remained the patron of the gift-giving festival of Christmas. Under various guises Saint Nicholas was transformed into a similar benevolent, gift-giving figure in The Netherlands, Belgium, and other northern European countries. In the United Kingdom Santa Claus is known as Father Christmas.


In Belgium:

Saint Nicholas was born in Turkey. He was very rich. At midnight he would come out and put clothes on poor people's doorstep.

How you celebrate it:

People get presents. On this day little children get bags filled with sweets, oranges, and peppernuts.

A lot of people sing songs about Saint Nicholas. This is a song I like:

O kom er eens kijken, wat ik in mijn schoentje vind:
Alles gekregen van die goede Sint.
Een pop met vlechten in het haar,
Een snoezig jurkje kant en klaar.
Drie kaatseballen in een net,
Een letter van banket.
Een drijftol met een zweep erbij,
Een doos met blokken ook voor mij.
En Jongens fijn. Een autopet,
Een letter van banket.

In English:

Oh come and look at what I found in my shoe:
I got everything from the good saint.
A doll with braids in her hair
And a really cute dress.
Three balls in a net,
A letter made out of chocolate.
A top with a stick,
A box of blocks all for me.
A boy's fun. A scooter,
And a letter made out of chocolate.

Ans P., age 11
Bernadotte School
Copenhagen, Denmark

In Poland:

The 6th of December St. Nicholas comes and gives us sweets and special cookies. On the 24th of December we wait for the first star in the sky to eat our dinner then we walk around our Christmas tree.

Weronik A., age 9
Bernadotte School
Copenhagen, Denmark

In the U.S.A.:

We celebrate Saint Nicholas Day in our home.

Saint Nicholas Day is to remind us to be good, tell the truth, be kind to each other, respect people and always try to be the best we can be.

On Saint Nicholas Day, we place a towel on our beds and go to school. If we were good for most of the year, Saint Nicholas will leave us some fruit, nuts, and sweets. If we were bad, he will leave us either an onion, a rotten potato, or a piece of coal. One of our brothers got an onion one year. He was getting bad grades in school and had been caught lying.

Saint Nicholas Day also reminds us that Christmas Day is soon.

We celebrate Christmas by buying a christmas tree, always a pine tree. We set the tree in a stand and sometime during the night, after we have gone to bed, Santa's elves come to our home and decorate the tree.

Santa Claus comes to our home during the night of Christmas Eve and leaves presents for us.

On Christmas Eve, we go to church, we are Roman Catholic. On Christmas Day, we usually go to our grand-mothers home for a big dinner. Most of our relatives are there, there is usually about forty people there. It is a lot of fun, and we usually eat too much.

Christine C., age 12, and Cindy C., age 9
Dublin, California