Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Santa Claus or St. Nicholas? #OurAuthorGang

Santa Claus or St. Nicholas?
It depends on where you live
By Erika M Szabo
Photo from Pinterest
It is fascinating how holiday celebrations evolved throughout the centuries, many different customs combined and new customs begun.

Santa Claus doesn't bring presents for children for Christmas in most European countries, but St Nicholas does on December 6th and Christmas Day focuses on the Christ Child.

Who is St. Nicholas?
Quote from the St. Nicholas Center website:
"The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves, and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need."

Throughout the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.

On the night of December 5th children in Hungary carefully polish their best shoes and put it on the windowsill or in front of the door to be filled by St. Nicholas, (Mikulás in Hungarian), sometime during the night. The good bishop comes with a big sack full of presents and a large record book with children's good and bad deeds. He used to come with two helpers: a good angel who helped to give out presents and a bad Krampus devil who punished mischief.
Photo from Pinterest
In the night St. Nicholas leaves little bags filled with candy, chocolate Mikulás figures, fruit, books, and small toys. Naughty children find twigs painted gold or a wooden spoon. Most children get some of each as no one is all good or all bad.
Photo from Pinterest
Mikulás-day is also celebrated in schools and day care centers. Children sing Mikulás songs and recite poems. St. Nicholas calls them by name and has a personal message for each child. He may stay to play or watch a movie with the children.

In the cities Bishop Miklós is getting more confused with Santa; it is common to see Santa-type figures with bishop's crozier.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops collect donations for the poor. In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrives on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

My children's book collection makes nice little presents for children 2-17

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