St. Nicholas Day
On December 6, many countries across Europe celebrate St. Nicholas Day, a festive holiday in remembrance of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, mariners and merchants. The Catholic holiday is celebrated in many countries, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and the countries of Central Europe.
Also called Nikolaos of Myra, Saint Nicholas was born to a wealthy family in Lycia, Asia Minor and became Bishop of Myra. During his lifetime, Saint Nicholas was known as being a friend to the poor and helpless and a reputation for secretly gifting people. For those who left their shoes out in the night, Saint Nicholas placed gold coins inside. Following his death, his family used his inheritance to help those in need. Saint Nicholas’s miracles and generosity to the less fortunate has made him a highly revered figure in the Catholic faith. Thus, the date of his death, December 6, has been designated St. Nicholas Day by the Catholic Church.
Did you know that it is his generosity and penchant for gift giving that has made him the model of the modern day Santa Claus? Dutch Protestants carried a popularized version of his life to New Amsterdam in America, which is where our present day conception of Santa Claus stems from.
To celebrate this day, families enjoy a large feast and exchange gifts. Children will leave out their shoe in anticipation for Saint Nicholas’s nightly visit. If they were good, in the morning the children will find their shoe filled with small gifts and sweet treats. St. Nicholas Day is a fun and festive reminder of the importance of giving and helping those in need.
Do you celebrate Saint Nicholas Day? What are some of your holiday traditions?