Many children look forward to Christmas Eve, where Santa visits and gives them treats. Kids will hang stocking, sing carols, listen to mom or dad read them a story about Santa Claus and then head off to bed. However, many children are also excited for Dec. 6 (and the day before it) – it’s Saint Nicholas Day or the Feast of Saint Nicholas.
What is St.Nicholas Day?
Every Dec. 5, children place their shoes outside their bedroom doors or in front of the fireplace waiting for St. Nick to come and stop by. Parents and children sing traditional songs and leave hay for St. Nick’s horse. Children who have been behaving the whole year will receive a special treat in their shoes- like candy, cookies, nuts, apples or coins. However, those who have been naughty will receive something disappointing like switches or lumps of coal. The tradition is similar to the stockings Americans use during the holidays.
This story seems shockingly similar to the story of Santa Claus, right? Well, that is no coincidence.
Who is Saint Nick?
For non-believers and skeptics – there really was a Saint Nicholas. He may not be the real-deal Santa Claus, but he was alive at one point and became known as Saint Nick for the things he did during his time here on Earth.
St. Nicholas was born to a wealthy family in the third century. He was a generous and kind man known for helping those in need, he never passed up a child without giving them something – at least a smile. The needy were also blessed by St. Nick. Later in life, he signed up to be a priest and bishop in Myra. St. Nick was exiled and imprisoned and later released like many other priests and bishops during the Christian persecution, but that did not stop him from believing in Christ and providing spiritual wealth to those around him.
Shortly after his death on Dec.6, 343 A.D., he was named the Patron Saint of Sailors. He made good deeds and miracles during his life and became a legend, helping the poor and saving children. Legend has it he also calmed raging seas and rescued sailors in distress. He has more than 2,000 churches named after him. Saint Nicholas Day reminds everyone about the spirit of giving to those less fortunate.
The Saint and Spirit of the Season
Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same person. St. Nick was a real-life human being who made a difference in the world. Many religious groups honor him on Dec. 6 (during Advent) because that is the day that he died. It is interesting though that he envelopes everything that is the holiday spirit and season. He cared for children and those in need, and he gave them what he could when he could, which is what the Christmas season is all about.
If you think you’re interest in celebrating St. Nick, there are a ton of fun and unique ways to do so. Remember, St. Nicholas set a good example of how caring (and giving) we should all be during this (and every) holiday season.