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St. Nicholas Day Surprise

Red Stamp, December 2013

 

Ready for a wonderful Christmas surprise? December 6th is St. Nicholas Day! Though this tradition is not as widely practiced in America, it is such a sweet way to spread holiday cheer, add some surprises to an ordinary day, and let the magic of the season last a bit longer. The lore of St. Nicholas travels back through the centuries, and everyone has a slightly different tale of this legendary man and how we came to celebrate him on December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas, the man, was born during the third century in what is now Turkey. His parents died when he was a young man, leaving him a significant inheritance. Generously, he gave all he had to the poor, the most notable legend being his rescue of three sisters being sold into slavery. He was later made the Bishop of Myra, and as a saint, he is best known for his generous giving to the needy, his concern for children, and as the patron saint for sailors and ships.

St. Nicholas, the legend, has greatly evolved over the years. As memories and tales of the real Nicholas grew dim, it was the people of Holland who kept his memory and generosity alive. On the eve of December 6, the anniversary of his death, Dutch children would lay out their shoes, legend being that St. Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, would return and fill it with treats. Most believe that Dutch immigrants brought the tradition to America, and Sinterklaas, who became known as Santa Claus, came across the ocean. (Read about St. Nicholas traditions around the world here.)

During the holiday season, my family has always kept the tradition of filling stockings with small gifts and candy, our modern-day equivalent to the traditions of our deep European roots. As part of this tradition, my mom gets each of my siblings a new Christmas Tree ornament each year. For weeks ahead of time, she labors over finding the perfect bauble for each of us, wanting it to reflect our personalities, something significant that we’ve done that year, or one of our great loves. Not only does this sweet tradition map out something remarkable from each year of my life, but as each of us move out of the house, we take our ornaments with us and have enough to fill a tree of our own. And it’s always a surprise to see what she comes up with every year!

Do you have a St. Nicholas Day surprise in store this year? What other holiday traditions do you carry throughout the month? Do share!