The History of Saint Nicholas…
We are getting close to that festive time of year that is Christmas. The time to fill your home with beautiful decorations, merry themed music and the smell of mulled wine to sip on, while wrapping thoughtful gifts for your loved ones.
Fun fact: Did you know that there are only 30 countries in the world where Christmas is not observed as a public holiday? Even more, not every country celebrates Christmas on the 25th of December. Interestingly enough there are three dates for Christmas: the 25th of December which is the most popular for most western and some eastern churches, the 6th of January is celebrated in Armenia and Lebanon; the 7th of January by the Orthodox church (in Russia Ukraine, Egypt and Ethiopia).
Many may not know this, but in Germany and other Scandinavian countries there are two celebrations that take place during the holiday season. The first being Christmas and the other the celebration of Nikolaus. Some of you might already be wondering… Who is Nikolaus?
Nikolaus is celebrated on the 6th of December as a celebration commemorating the passing of Saint Nicholas, who some now refer to as Santa Claus. In many European countries, they believe Santa and St. Nick are not the same person. Many, many years ago in the town of Lycia (South-West Turkey) there lived a man named Nicholas. Nicholas was a very wealthy Christian Bishop who loved to help people, he was well known for his miraculous deeds and secret gift giving. At night Nicholas would secretly visit the houses of the less fortunate and sometimes leave behind bags of gold coins and other thoughtful gifts. Nicholas also had a habit of leaving these gifts in people’s shoes. Towards the end of his life, he was branded a saint for all the good deeds he had done and became known as Saint Nicholas.
On the eve of December 5th, children polish their shoes and fill them with carrots and maybe even some hay for Nikolaus’ stead. Just before going to bed they leave them in front of their doors to await the arrival of Nikolaus at midnight. If the child has been good all year round, their shoe will be left with lots of goodies. Which traditionally include: chocolate coins, candy canes, a clementine and a small toy. However, if the child has been naughty, they will be left with a piece of wood. And if the child has been extremely naughty, they will get a visit from Nikolaus himself with his not so friendly servant, Knecht Ruprecht, to question the child about his or her behaviour.
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According to Quora.com, “Saint Nicholas is rooted in history and fact. Santa Claus is derived from some aspects of the Saint and embellished with many feats of magic to symbolize the Holidays.” So you can see how the stories brought over from Dutch and German immigrants have slowly evolved from the Sainthood of Saint Nickolaus and changed into Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas was kind and helped those in need. This Holiday season and in our everyday lives, try and help those in need, even if you don’t have much, a little always goes a long way.
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Photographed Above: Chocolate Marshmallows Assorted Flavors in a Gift Jar, $13.95 at Baru.be; Organic Candy Canes, $4.49 at Wholesomesweets.com; Cinnamon Star Biscuits, $2.99 at Traderjoes.com; Knight Plus Sign Shoes in Red, $80.00 at Akidbrand.com; Wooden Animal Toys, $7.00 at Petitsixieme.com