Thursday, December 5, 2013

The History of St. Nicholas

Good morning! I actually wrote this post two years ago, as I was still new to blogging I do not think too many read it, so I am re-posting it today for those that would like to know a little  history about St. Nicholas. 

ALL IMAGES FROM St. Nicholas Center

Do you know what today is? The eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas. Tonight is the night you put your shoes or socks out so that St. Nick fills them up with all sorts of treats!

 I have been celebrating St. Nicholas for my entire life, and my mother before her, and her mother too, it is a custom that my family brought over from Germany. In many places where St. Nicholas is prominent his feast day is the day you receive your gifts, not Christmas. 

For those of you not familiar with St. Nicholas, here is an abbreviated history, Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara. His wealthy parents died while he was very young and being the devout Christian that he was he set about giving away his inheritance, to the poor, needy and suffering people in his town. He was raised by his uncle who was a member of the clergy and he dedicated himself to serving God, while still young he became the Bishop of Myra. He became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need and his love for children as well as his concern for sailors and ships. In fact he is the patron saint of children and sailors.

There are many tales and legends of the life and deeds of St. Nicholas which help us to understand why he was so loved and revered. One famous story tells the tale of three young girls who had no dowry, their father was a mean and nasty man and said that with no dowry he could not keep them, he would have to sell them as slaves. Nicholas heard this and tried to think of ways to get them money, without offering charity, as he knew the father would not take it. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, money appeared in their home.  The bags of coins where thrown in an open window, and  landed in their shoes drying by the sill. Hence the reason we put our shoes out!

Some people say it was bags of money, some people say gold balls , that is why you see three gold balls sometimes represented as oranges as the symbol of St. Nicholas, hence the reason  you always find an orange in your shoe or sock along with your other goodies. It is also the reason St. Nicholas became known as a gift giver.

The anniversary of the death of  St. Nicholas also became a celebration of his life, December 6th or if you follow the Julian calendar December 19th. So on the eve of his celebration we leave out our shoes or stockings and a few carrots for his horse or donkey and hope that in the morning we will find some treats, if your bad all you get is a few twigs or some coal.

We do also celebrate Christmas, this was just a little visit from the great man to make sure that we were being good. Apparently we were because we always got an orange, and lots of treats.

What about you? Do you celebrate St.Nick? What are your family traditions? I love hearing all about other peoples traditions or traditions from your country so please do share.

I hope you have a great night, get your shoes out, you never know if you are going to get a visit from old St. Nick!

This is from the St. Nicholas site but you can make your own at Wordle.

P.S: If you are interested there are fabulous books written on St.Nicholas, and also how the Saint transformed into the modern Santa Claus, Pere Noel or Father Christmas. Whatever you know him by, he was a lover of children whatever your age. You can also find lots of information at the St. Nicholas Center where there are images of the man, a history of his life and of course suggestions for celebrating his life.

All images from the St. Nicholas Center HERE


  1. Thanks for reposting this blog. I am living in the Netherlands and have learned to enjoy and embrase this special event. As a Canadian it was almost against my instinct and upbringing to see Christmas in another perspective. When we had our sons, it was for me the "magic" moment to see and experience St. Klaas from their side. Their innocent belief in St. Klaas taught me to enjoy the dutch way of giving gifts during the holiday season. The time and personal effort that went into each poem, and uniquely diguised gift/suprise is treated with great respect and honour. The unpacking of each gift is the center of attention. Poems read aloud, for the family and friends to hear. A wonderful way to celebrate the family, and also some loving fun pranks and jokes thrown in the mix. Our sons are all grown up, and our family has chosen to celebrate Christmas in the Canadian way. But secretly in my heart I hope in the future to be able to once again get into the excitement and childish yearning for St Klaas to come into our home to visit our grandchildren, and see the magic through their young hearts.

  2. Good morning my dear! THis is a very busy time of year and I'm barely getting to my blog roll.Good to see you!

  3. I do remember this post from the first time around. Loved it then, love it now. A great reminder. Thank You!

  4. It was definitely a Dutch tradition as well. My parents came from the Netherlands and so they had the St. Klaas tradition on December 6th.


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