St Nicholas Day is a day of feast held in the honor of Saint Nicholas. This day is observed on the 6th of December in the Western Christian countries and on 19th December in the Eastern Christian countries.
This Christian festival is celebrated giving particular regard to St Nicholas’s reputation as a gift bearer and by attending church services or mass. In the European countries, especially Poland and Germany, it is a tradition for the boys to dress themselves up as bishops and beg alms for the less fortunate on this day.
In Ukraine all the children eagerly wait for the Saint to visit their houses and put a gift secretly under their pillow if they had behaved properly and been a good child throughout the year. Those who had been naughty might end up finding a piece of coal or a twig under their pillow instead of a present.
However in Netherlands, the children put a clog filled with carrots and hay outside their houses for the horse of St Nicholas on this day as a part of the tradition. On this day people exchange gifts which come with humorous personal rhymes written by the sender.
In the United States it is customary of the children to leave out their shoes in the entrance room on the eve of St Nicholas Feast hoping that he would place some coins on the soles of their shoes during the night. The bringer of gifts, St Nicholas, is a mythological figure just like the Santa Clause of America or the Father Christmas of Britain or the Dutch Sinterklaas. However the practice of exchanging gifts is associated with the day of Christmas rather than the St Nicholas Day.
Saint Nicholas was born in the land of Patara, which is a part of present day Turkey, in circa 280. He was a Christian Bishop and was known for his reputation of reaching out to the poor and providing them with food and clothes. As he was a giver and helped the needy, the tradition of giving gifts grew after his death in order to honor him.
It is believed that the legendary and the mythical entity, Santa Clause, who brings gifts for the children all over the world, is none other than Saint Nicholas himself. Saint was born to rich parents and after they he lost both of them at a young age, St Nicholas made the use of his inheritance to help out the sick and the poor. Being a devout Christian, he served as the bishop of Myra, now known as Demre, in the latter days of his life. There are several legends which portray his generous, selfless and giving nature.
As the legend goes, St Nicholas had helped 3 poor sisters whose father didn’t have money and fortune to pay for their dowries and thus had decided to sell the three sisters into servitude. It is believed that the Saint went to the house secretly and kept a bag filled with money three times. The father used this money to get his daughters married. However on the final visit, the father saw him and thanked him earnestly for helping him during his hard time. In another legend, St Nicholas had saved the lives of three innocent men who were falsely accused and sentenced to death.
In another horrifying event, St Nicholas had resurrected three young boys who were killed and kept in barrels by a wicked butcher who had thought of selling them as ham at the time of famine. These stories of miracles and legends portraying his kind nature became known to people across the world and he was soon considered to be the gift giver and protector of sailors and young children. According to various sources, it is believed that St Nicholas had died on the 6th of December in circa 343, after which a feast was held on his death anniversary every year in the honor of his great deeds which came to be known as the St Nicholas Day.
The St Nicholas Day is extremely popular among the children of the countries of Europe and America as they receive presents on this day. In some cities of Europe like Italy and Bari, St Nicholas is recognized as patron saint by the people and this day is observed by carrying out various activities which includes feasts, exchanging gifts and parades. Saint Nicholas is known by several names across Europe. In Germany, he is known as Nikolaus and in Netherlands, he is known as Sinterklaas. Before the arrival of the main day, on the 6th of December, the children put out their shoes or a special boot near the front door or at the fireplace hoping that St Nicholas will fill them up with gifts and presents during his secret night visits. The Feast of St Nicholas is a religious holiday; however, it is not a public holiday in Canada, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.