Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)
A day honoring the Bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey. Known for his charity and wisdom, St. Nicholas is believed by many to be the inspiration for Father Christmas and Santa Claus.
Some parts of the world celebrate the evening before, known as Saint Nicholas’ Eve (December 05).
Sinterklaas (also called Sint-Nicolaas or De Goedheiligman in Dutch (and Saint Nicolas in French) is a traditional Winter holiday figure in the Netherlands, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles and Belgium, celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas’ eve (December 5) or, in Belgium, on the morning of December 6. The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children.
It is also celebrated in parts of France (North, Alsace, Lorraine), as well as in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and in the town of Trieste and in Eastern Friuli in Italy. Additionally, many Roman Catholics of Alsatian and Lotharingian descent in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, celebrate “Saint Nicholas Day” on the morning of December 6. The traditions differ from country to country, even between Belgium and the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas’ Eve (December 5) is the chief occasion for gift-giving. The evening is called “sinterklaasavond” or “pakjesavond” (“presents evening”). In the Netherlands, children receive their presents on this evening whereas in Belgium, children put their shoe in front of the fireplace on the evening of December 5, then go to bed, and find the presents around the shoes on the morning of the 6th.
Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. It is often claimed that during the American War of Independence the inhabitants of New York City, a former Dutch colonial town (New Amsterdam) which had been swapped by the Dutch for other territories, reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, as Saint Nicholas was a symbol of the city’s non-English past. The name Santa Claus supposedly derived from older Dutch Sinte Klaas. However, the Saint Nicholas Society was not founded until 1835, almost half a century after the end of the American War of Independence. A study of the “children’s books, periodicals and journals” of New Amsterdam by Charles Jones revealed no references to Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas. However, not all scholars agree with Jones’s findings, which he reiterated in a booklength study in 1978; Howard G. Hageman, of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, maintains that the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas in New York existed in the early settlement of the Hudson Valley, although he agrees that “there can be no question that by the time the revival of St. Nicholas came with Washington Irving, the traditional New Netherlands observance had completely disappeared.” The Saint Nicholas Society of New York still has a feast on December 6 to this day
Did You Know?
Facts, Figures &
Folklore about Christmas Dec 24 : Christmas Eve
Did you know that the night before Christmas has as many unique traditions as it does people who celebrate it?
Throughout Europe and in many last-minute American homes, too, families gather to “deck the halls” and set up their Christmas tree. There is the tradition of lighting bayberry candles on Christmas Eve and reciting the verse: “Bayberry candles burned to the socket, puts luck in the home, food in the larder, and gold in the pocket.” Midnight Mass is also part of many Roman Catholics and Anglicans Christmas Eve celebration.
And for many families, Christmas Eve also marks the late-night arrival of Santa Claus. Children leave out milk and cookies before they go to bed, for Santa and his reindeer to enjoy. Many countries throughout the world open presents on Christmas Eve. While in the US it is more common to open gifts on Christmas morning.
Did you know that the Italian tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes is a celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus?
In his honor, many Roman Catholics do not eat meat on Christmas Eve, enjoying instead a feast of seven seafood and shellfish dishes. The number seven signifies the number of days in which G-d created the universe. The Feast of Seven Fishes tradition originated in southern Italy and is still practiced there today, as well as by many Italian American families.
Christmas is the Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and is a central part of the winter holiday season. Although traditionally a Christian holiday, Christmas is widely celebrated worldwide by many non-Christians.
Santa Claus, a popular mythological figure, is also an important part of the celebration and is associated with the bringing of gifts for children.
Join us for a new Did You Know holiday fact each day as we countdown to Christmas. This year Christmas Eve will be celebrated Friday December 24, Christmas Saturday December 25.