Sometimes we are all children. 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. 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. Relics are still kept in a church in Bari, Italy. 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 so they are cleaned and carefully polished, to receive gifts from the saint. For 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 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 who is a traditional winter holiday figure in the Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba, Suriname, Curacao and Bonaire. The traditional meaning of the celebration is today almost lost, as the U.S. Santa Claus is now a stronger and more popular representation.
Each country where Nicholas is celebrated has different traditions and legends related to the saint. In each of these countries, his coming announces the beginning of the winter holidays, Christmas and the new year. Fortunately the saint is generous with everyone from children to adults and from saints to sinners. December is a time to contemplate the past and to forgive…