Saint Nicholas Day Date in the current year: December 6, 2019

Saint Nicholas Day In many countries, Saint Nicholas has a reputation as a bringer of gifts to well-behaved children (in fact, Santa Claus and Father Christmas derive from this patron saint of Children. That’s why many children around the world look forward to Saint Nicholas Day, observed on December 6 in Western Christian countries and December 19 in Eastern Christian countries.

Saint Nicholas of Myra, also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker, was an early Christian bishop of the ancient Greek city of Myra (present-day town of Demre in Turkey). Although very little is known about the historical figure that was Saint Nicholas, he is believed to have performed numerous miracles, like saving a ship that was nearly destroyed by a storm or reviving three children killed by a malicious butcher during a terrible famine.

Saint Nicholas is venerated as the patron saint of coopers, sailors, fishermen, merchants, brewers, archers, pharmacists, pawnbrokers, broadcasters, repentant thieves, and the falsely accused, but he is probably best known as the patron saint of children. In many countries, Saint Nicholas is believed to give gifts to well-behaved children on his feast day, while children who behaved badly may expect to find a piece of coal or a twig instead of gifts.

The tradition of gift giving is believed to have originated from pre-Reformation Germany, where parents would buy their children new winter clothes in the beginning of December. The tradition later spread to other Catholic countries.

Although not a major celebration, Saint Nicholas Day is observed in some form or other in the Balkans, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, parts of Germany, Eastern Europe (Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Ukraine, Poland), Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland, as well as by Christian communities in Lebanon. In Western Europe, it is celebrated on December 6, while some eastern European countries (for example, Ukraine) observe Saint Nicholas Day on December 19.

Due to Saint Nicholas’s reputation as a gift-bearer, children wait for him to come and put a present (usually sweets or other treats, small toys, coins) in their shoes or under their pillows. In some countries, Saint Nicholas is said to give twigs or piece of coal to children who behaved poorly during the year.

In come countries, Saint Nicholas is accompanied by helpers. In Central Europe, for example, one of his companions is Krampus, a horned figure who punishes children who have misbehaved. In the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia, Saint Nicholas is accompanied by an angel and a devil. Another one of his companions is Knecht Ruprecht, originating as a figure in a Nuremberg Christmas procession.

The Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, is the primary basis for Santa Claus. He was brought to the New World by Dutch immigrants and merged with the English character Father Christmas to create Santa Claus (a phonetic deviation of “Sinterklaas”). Sinterklaas is assisted by Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), a character with a black face in Moorish costume, carrying a birch rod to spank naughty children.

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Religious Holidays

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Saint Nicholas Day, patron saint of children, religious holidays, Sinterklaas, Krampus, Zwarte Piet