A look at some of the history and holidays on December 6
Feast of St Nicholas – Yes, Virginia, there is a St. Nickolaus . . . and his feast day is today. The Santa Claus we associate with Christmas is a melding of the legends of St. Nickolaus and Odin as filtered through the Dutch. The actual St. Nickolaus was a 4th century Bishop of Myra famous for his gift giving:
After his parents died, Nicholas is said to have distributed their wealth to the poor. In his most famous exploit, which is first attested in Michael the Archimandrite’s Life of Saint Nicholas, Nicholas heard of a devout man who once had been wealthy, but had lost all his money due to the “plotting and envy of Satan.” The man had three daughters, but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment, be forced to become prostitutes. Hearing of the girls’ plight, Nicholas decided to help them, but, being too modest to help the family in public (or to save them the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to the house under the cover of night and threw a purse filled with gold coins through the window opening into the house. He did the same thing the next two nights, giving the man a total of three bags of gold, one for each of his three daughters.
According to Michael the Archimandrite’s version, on the third night, the father of the three girls stayed up and caught Saint Nicholas in the act of the charity. The father fell on his knees, thanking him. Nicholas ordered him not to tell anyone about the gift. The scene of Nicholas’s secret gift-giving is one of the most popular scenes in Christian devotional art, appearing in icons and frescoes from across Europe. Although depictions vary depending on time and place, Nicholas is often shown wearing a cowl while the daughters are typically shown in bed, dressed in their nightclothes. . . .
The Feast Day of St. Nicholas is celebrated widely throughout all of Europe as a St. Nickolaus Day celebration that begins with a worship service. Then there are the giving of gifts, parades and other local traditions. [Read more…]