Sometimes, we are all children, and today, even Google chose to put out its boots hoping that Saint Nicholas will fill them up with goodies. In Germany, the search engine displays a St. Nicholas Day doodle (Nikolaus in German) that honors the German tradition. However, there are more countries around Europe celebrating today.
Traditionally, December 6th is the day of the Wonderworker, the Greek saint, patron of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, and students, whose relics are still kept in a church in Bari, Italy. Aside Germany, the saint is celebrated today in Greece, Italy, Turkey, Belgium, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Albania, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, and the Czech Republic.
The saint brings joy to children in these countries: the advent of the day finds them preparing their boots (cleaned and carefully polished) to receive the gifts from the saint. For those children who were good all-year-round, the saint will bring sweets, oranges, coins and other gifts. For those who were naughty, the saint will most likely fill the boots with a rod, symbolizing a punishment. Since the saint is kind and forgiving, few children ever get such a “blessing.”
St. Nicholas is the basis of the mythical holiday figure of Santa Claus in the United States. The name Santa Claus is derived from Sinterklaas a traditional Winter holiday figure in the Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba, Suriname, Curacao and Bonaire. Unfortunately, the traditional meaning of the celebration is today almost lost, the US Santa Claus representation being stronger and more popular.
Each country where Nicholas is still celebrated, has different traditions, and legends related to the saint. In each of these countries, his coming announces the beginning of the winter holidays, the Christmas and the New Year. And fortunately, the saint is generous with everyone, from children to adults, from saints to sinners. December is a time to contemplate the past and to forgive…