Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

by Melinda

December 6th is the feast day of Saint Nicholas. And did you know that he was a real person?

St. Nicholas was born into a wealthy family at Patara, Lycia, Asia Minor. Nicholas was chosen Bishop of Myra and devoted himself to helping the poor. He lived in the fourth century.

There are many stories, legends, and Christmas traditions credited to Saint Nicholas. You can read about one of the traditions – Christmas stockings – here on the Yule Be Merry site.

Over time he became associated with Christmas and as a giver of gifts in Germany. And today Germany is one of the countries that celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Many of the customs are similar to what we do here in America for Christmas and Christmas Eve.

The night before children place letters along with carrots or other food (for his white horse or donkey), on a plate near their shoes. Or sometimes they put the items in their shoes.

They either set their shoes outside the home, beneath their bed, near a radiator, or perhaps near a windowsill. But the hope is the same: That St. Nicholas will find the letter and treats. Then if the children have been good he files their plate (or shoe or boot) with fruit, nuts and candies. And if they’ve been bad then they get the usual lump of coal or maybe potatoes or twigs.

German prayer card for St. Nicholas circa 1850

He is the patron saint of children, seamen/mariners, and bakers to name a few.

There are many miracles attributed to St. Nicholas. And there are countless churches in England, France and Germany that bear his name.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember, honor, and emulate about St. Nicholas is his devotion to helping the poor. That’s a spirit of Christmas I pray will endure forever.

Lord, giver of good gifts, make us generous to others, especially the needy.

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