Monday, December 7, 2009

Fond Memories of the Feast Day of St. Nicholas #Catholic

When I was a child, I remember looking forward to December for several reasons. Of course, we had Christmas, but we also had a special day early in December called "St. Nick's Day." On that day, my brother and I would return from school to find a stocking near the door, filled with fruit, candy, and perhaps a small toy or two. My Italian mother explained to us that "St. Nick" left it there for us to enjoy. I admit at times that "St. Nick" would meld with "Ole' St. Nick," which was a common nickname for Santa Claus, but I didn't really understand the difference until I was older. (And mom no longer made stockings for us.)

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Nicholas, who has a wonderful legacy of being generous to those in need.

One of the most famous stories of the generosity of St. Nicholas says that he threw bags of gold through an open window in the house of a poor man to serve as dowry for the man’s daughters, who otherwise would have been sold into slavery.

The gold is said to have landed in the family’s shoes, which were drying near the fire. This is why children leave their shoes out by the door, or hang their stockings by the fireplace in the hopes of receiving a gift on the eve of his feast.

St. Nicholas is associated with Christmas because of the tradition that he had the custom of giving secret gifts to children. It is also conjectured that the saint, who was known to wear red robes and have a long white beard, was culturally converted into the large man with a reindeer-drawn sled full of toys because in German, his name is “San Nikolaus” which almost sounds like “Santa Claus.”

St. Nicholas, the 'Original' Santa Claus

I suppose there is an extra connection there for my mother and her family. According to history, after the Muslims conquered Turkey in 1807, St. Nicholas' relics were taken to Bari, Italy. Bari, is the hometown of my great-grandmother on my mother's side.

I was ill yesterday and totally forgot about St. Nicholas, but perhaps he left a little something in your stocking. :-)

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