Dec 06, 2018

St. Nicholas’ Day

 

December 6 is popularly celebrated as St. Nicholas Day, a day to embrace the spirit of generosity and the giving of gifts. In fact, a lot of what Christmas is about today is based on the original myth of St. Nicholas’ Day… but before we get into that, let's take a look at what St. Nicholas Day is, and why it’s so important.

 

St. Nicholas was born in Patara (then a part of Greece, now a part of Turkey) in 270 AD. He was raised by wealthy Christian parents, who instilled in him the importance and values of giving and unending generosity.

 

 

After his parents’ tragic death in an epidemic, Nicholas used his wealth to help the needy. He made it his mission to serve God in this manner, and dedicated his life to it. One of the early Bishops of the Christian Church, Nicholas gained fame throughout the land for his generosity and love for children, and is today considered the patron saint of children.

 

One of many stories talks about a poor man who had three daughters. By the custom of the time, the daughters needed a hefty dowry in order to be married to suitable grooms. Unfortunately, the father couldn’t afford it. As a result, his daughters would find it impossible to marry; they were even likely to be sold off into prostitution.

 

 

That’s when a St. Nicholas’ miracle occurred. On three different occasions, a bag filled with gold appeared in the man’s home.

 

This led eventually to the tradition of children hanging stockings or socks, waiting for them to be filled with gifts on Christmas Day. 

 

What’s the difference between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus?

 

Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children and the Wonder Worker, based on his generosity and giving. ‘Santa Claus’ originates from the word Sinterklaas in the Netherlands.

 

St. Nicholas is in all probability based on fact and history. While it has been nearly two millennia since the birth of St. Nicholas, he was in all probability a real, and extremely good, human being. 

 

(Courtesy: Coca-Cola)

Santa Claus was based on St. Nicholas, but the legend of Santa really gained popularity under a marketing blitz by Coca-Cola! In fact, the modern image of Santa Claus, with rich red clothing, is largely credited to Coca-Cola.

 

Santa embodies the spirit of Christmas and giving gifts, while St. Nicholas embodies the spirit of generosity, empathy, gratitude and is a revered saint. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated in various countries across the world and is marked by simple traditions, feasts and even parades. Santa, on the other hand, can be considered the patron saint of Christmas… and Santa Claus is also seen more often than Jesus Christ in Christmas imagery and marketing materials!

 

 

A cute little tradition from the past involved children putting carrots in their shoes. This is to allow Sinterklaas to feed his donkeys, and in return, he provides gifts. Today, children put out cookies and milk for Santa Claus’ reindeer.

 

St. Nicholas’ Day

 

 

The hanging of stockings is an integral St. Nicholas’ Day tradition. There’s also a little tradition called St. Nicholas’ blessing of the candy canes. St. Nicholas was a Bishop, and Bishops carry hook-shaped staffs called a crosier. Candy canes shaped this way are handed out in church and at home around Christmas. They’re symbolic of the late great Saint and his love for children.

 

While the festival may not have commercial popularity, the message of St. Nicholas’ Day is about the spirit of giving, of kindness and endless generosity, all without expecting anything back.

 

 

St. Nicholas truly embodies the spirit of humanity and whether you’re Christian, religious or not, the core message of the Saint is something that humans often tend to forget. In an era of greed, selfishness and ruthlessness, it's good to sit back and think of the positive messages of the Saint and try to implement them in our day-to-day lives.

 

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