Countries That Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day Part I
Saint Nicholas Day in Canada
When immigrants from Holland and the Ukrain came to Canada they brought their traditions with them. Saint Nicholas is celebrated by the Dutch and Ukrainians to name a few. Christmas starts for the Ukrainians on Saint Nicholas Day. The young children are given small gifts from Saint Nicholas.
The children in schools and parishes are given small bags of gold-colored coins in remembrance of Saint Nicholas giving young women dowry money. Saint Nicholas is welcomed by the singing children. Saint Nicholas will come dressed as a Byzantine Bishop and he will have his angles with him. Sometimes he will be on foot and other times he will have his sleigh. The angles will give out goodies and small gifts to the children.
The people will fast on Christmas Eve to remember the hardships Joseph and Mary endured on their travel to Bethlehem.
After World War II many Dutch immigrants settled in Canada. They settled mainly in southern Ontario. Many local Dutch shops and stores will have Counterclaims celebrations. On the Saturday closest to December 5th in Grimsby Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet will go to the store to visit with the children and give them a small candy bag filled with chocolate mini tatami and Kru IOL Noten. This is a great tradition that has been passed down for centuries. Children, parents, and grandparents look forward to this tradition every year.
Saint Nicholas Day in France
Saint Nicholas will come mainly in the east, north, and Nord-Pas-de-Calais in France. The children are brought treats and gifts that are carried in baskets by a donkey. On December 6th the family waits for Saint Nicholas to arrive. The Grandparents will tell stories about Saint Nicholas.
The most popular story is the one about 3 children who got lost. They become very hungry and a wicked butcher lures them to his shop. He attacks them and puts them in a big tub. Saint Nicholas rescues them and they go back to their families.
After this happened Saint Nicholas became known as the protector of children. There are statues and paintings in France that portray this story. They show Saint Nicholas with children in a barrel. Pere Fouettard was the evil butcher and he has followed Saint Nicholas in shame ever since. This story is also a popular children song in France.
There is a lot of activity in the bakeries and home kitchens with everyone baking spiced gingerbread cookies, mandala, and brioche that is shaped like the good saint. Children at school will be learning Saint Nicholas songs and poems. The children also draw and paint pictures of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas will go visit nursery schools where he gives children chocolates and on some occasions small gifts. The children are threatened if they have not been good by Pere Fouettard who carry's a switch for that purpose. The children are afraid he will tell Saint Nicholas not to give them gifts.
Children will put their shoes near the chimney on the eve of saints day. Before they go to bed they will sing a song to Saint Nicholas. In the morning the children's shoes will be full of chocolates and special cookies. Everyone does something wrong so even the good children will get birch twigs tied with ribbon.
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of all Lorraine and is Saint Nicholas-de-Pert and many thousand of people will come for feast day on December 6th. They will have music and a parade that has many beautiful floats. Saint Nicholas arrives and he will be escorted by Pere Fouettard. The key to the city will be given to Saint Nicholas by the Mayor at the town Hall. In the evening at the end of the festivities, there is a large fireworks display.
Saint Nicholas Day in Italy
The San Nicola festival that celebrates the arrival of Saint Nicholas in 1087 is celebrated in Bari, Italy. Italian sailors brought Saint Nicholas's remains from Myra to Bari because many of the people were afraid they would not be able to visit his tomb after the Turks conquered Myra.
There is a festival held every May in honor of Saint Nicholas. Nicolas's statue will be taken out to sea to spend the day. There are thousands of people that wait and welcome the statue back to Bari. There is a lighted procession of people that will go from the harbor to the public square. When the statue arrives at the square the Mayor and other officials are there to welcome it back. This celebration lasts a week. There is a high mass held in the basilica which is filled with worshipers.
The children of Molfetta, on the Adriatic Sea, will put a plate on the table that will have a letter on it asking for gifts on San Nicola during the night. Saint Nicolas will fill the plates with chocolates, candies, and other goodies. This is a magical night for the children and the morning will be a very happy one.
In Trieste, Saint Nicolas comes on December 6th. This day is celebrated by children and adults but is mainly a day for giving gifts to children. The grandfathers will dress like the saint and give gifts to the children. If the children have not been good they will give them a gift that looks like coal but are made out of sugar.
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of young women who want to get married and girls. They still come to the Basilica de Saint Nicole in Bari on December 6th to put a note and 3 coins in a special box for the saint.
Young Byzantine Catholic girls in the village of Palazzo Adridano, Sicily will celebrate Saint Nicholas feast day on December 5th and 6th in about the same way. They will dress in traditional fashion and sing special songs to Saint Nicholas hoping he will help them find husbands.
When a child loses a tooth their tooth will be hidden in a safe place. When the tooth has been hidden the child will pray to Saint Nicholas to give him or her a new one. Saint Nicholas will take the tooth and leave a gift which is usually money.
Pani di S. Nicola, Saint Nicholas loaves, are distributed in southern Italy and Sicily. This custom originated in Tolenlaine. The fisherman of Ganzirri believes the loaves will calm the rough seas. Fisherman will have the loaves blessed and carry them on their fishing boats. If a bad storm comes up they will throw the loaves into the sea to calm the storm and keep them safe.
Saint Nicholas Day in England
There are more than 400 churches in England that are named after Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas Day is in early Advent and children and gifts are associated with Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is invited by many churches to visit during or after their Sunday service so he can explain who he is and why his memory is still celebrated. On December 6th Saint Nicholas is celebrated and food, gifts, and money are collected to give to the needy.
In 2000 Canterbury started celebrating by having a very impressive Saint Nicholas Fest. The event was sponsored by the Cathedral and the city. The event will start with a parade through the city and ends inside the Cathedral. The Archbishop and Saint Nicholas lead the parade inside the Cathedral. The Archbishop and Saint Nicholas and 2,500 adults and children are inside the Cathedral. There is music, dancing, hymns, and praying.
The Church of England was led away from the Roman Catholic Church by Henry VIII. Saint Nicholas was very popular. There were many churches named after him Nicholas was the most popular name in England. The Boy Bishop custom lost popularity in the 16th century. The English cathedrals and parishes have started the tradition again. One of the boys from the choir will be Nicholas Bishop. He will carry the Bishops pastoral staff.
At the Hereford Cathedral, the Boy Bishop will preach a service and lead the prayers. He will also ask for Gods blessing of the people