St. Nicholas Day is a worldwide known feast day celebrated during the Advent. Western Christianity and Romania observe St. Nicholas Day on the day of his death – December 6th – and Eastern Christianity on December 19th. All over the world, Christians observe several different customs and traditions. Some of them are particularly interesting and might help us understand who is the man who hides behind Santa Claus.
St Nicholas of Bari - Andrea Sabatini
Who was Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas of Myra (270-343 BC), also known as Nicholas of Bari, was the Bishop of the ancient Greek city of Myra in Asia Minor during the Roman Empire. Because of the many miracles attributed to him, he is also known as Nicholas “the Wonderworker”. Probably, none of the saints of Christian tradition is revered and loved as much as St. Nicholas. Although each Christian community developed different worships over the centuries, Christians from all over the world ascribe the same virtues and characteristics to him. Above all, he is considered an example of generosity, compassion, and extraordinary humanity. Moreover, he is the protector of the weakest, the poor, and the prisoners. He’s the patron of children, sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, brewers, and pawnbrokers.
St. Nicholas Day: the most popular tradition
The most common Christian tradition about St. Nicholas Day is for children: at night, they leave their shoes in front of the fireplace, on the windowsill, or outside their bedroom door. They have been told, in fact, that St. Nicholas would fill the boots with small gifts such as fruits, candies, and treats. But where does this tradition come from?
St. Nicholas of Myra is worldwide known as a very generous and sympathetic man. According to the legend, he once threw three bags full of money through a window, or down a chimney, into the home of a seriously impoverished family who was about to sell their three daughters. In so doing, he paid for the dowries and rescued the three girls from a very sad destiny. This was just one of his many good acts towards the poor, especially poor children.
This story inspired the most popular St. Nicholas Day’ tradition. Nowadays, on the night between December 5th and 6th, children leave a pair of boots outside their bedroom, waiting for St. Nicholas to come and, the morning after, to find the boots full of small nice gifts.
St. Nicholas Day is a beautiful Advent family tradition. We, as parents, can take this chance tell our children the meaningful stories surrounding St. Nicholas, and meditating on his extraordinary acts. Yet, since we don’t want to disappoint our kids, we will fill their boots with small gifts.