Jolly Old Saint Nicholas Coming To Town

You’re just in time to celebrate Saint Nick’s Day with your family, friends and coworkers. Phew. December 6 marks the feast of modern-day Turkey’s Saint Nicholas, or the Bishop of Myra—the inspiration for North America’s Santa Claus. It’s Christmas come early! You’re welcome.

Be inspired by revelers around the world for celebrating the great Saint Nicholas on his feast day.

The Netherlands
Cultural historians explain that to the Dutch, Sinterklaas is a very emotional tradition commemorated by exchanging presents and poems. The Dutch adopted the Turkish saint as their symbol of national identity, whom they traditionally celebrate on December 5. In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas travels by boat from Madrid (where he lives in the off-season, of course) and is welcomed by crowds waving flags and wearing miters—a traditional bishops’ cap—to match his own.

The celebration continues for Saint Nicholas, or San Nicola, in Italy. One Italian man insisted that Saint Nicholas lives in Italy because if he goes back to Myra, Turkey, they won’t let him return. Italians honor San Nicola by parading with his icon, and carrying his statues from the sea to the piazzas for late night parties.

Throughout France children leave their shoes on the chimney on the eve of Saint Nick’s day, which he fills with oranges, candies and small gifts. The American custom of hanging stockings by the fire derived from this tradition. The French exchange oranges because the fruit symbolizes the three golden balls Saint Nicholas is said to have used to save three women from being sold into slavery. For this reason, Saint Nicholas is the patron of pawnbrokers, whose symbol (three rings) evolved from Saint Nick’s story.

Devotion to Saint Nicholas, the Wonder Worker, reaches epic proportions in Russia. In European nations, Saint Nicholas is known to ride to town on a white horse. But since there were fewer horses in Russia, storytellers changed the tale to Nicholas travelling on a reindeer (sound familiar?). Nicholas is a very popular name for Russian boys in this culture, due to this saint’s great popularity.

Much more revelry attends Saint Nick’s Day in other parts of the world than in the United States, but you can create your own holiday traditions tonight. Surprise family and friends with tiny shoe-sized treats like restaurant gift certificates, candy canes and cookies. Celebrate Saint Nick himself this year and you’ll one-up the rest on Christmas cheer points.