While many children look forward to Santa’s visit on Christmas Eve, children across Europe also look forward to Dec. 6 - it's Saint Nicholas Day or the Feast of Saint Nicholas.
Each year on Dec. 5, children place their shoes outside their bedroom doors or in front of the fireplace hoping St. Nick will stop by. Many sing traditional songs and leave a carrot or some hay for St. Nick’s horse. Children who have been good all year will receive a special treat in their shoes – like candy, cookies, nuts, apples or coins. But those who have been naughty receive an entirely different type of gift - switches or a lump or two of coal! The tradition is similar to the stockings Americans use during the holidays – minus the stinky feet smell!
And for non-believers and skeptics – there really was a Saint Nicholas. Born to a wealthy family in the third century, St. Nick was a kind and generous man known for helping those in distress. After his parent’s death, he used his inheritance to help the less fortunate. He went on to become a priest and the Bishop of Myra. Like many other priests and bishops during the Christian persecution, St. Nick was exiled and imprisoned and later released. After his death on December 6th, 343 A.D., he was named the Patron Saint of Sailors.
During and after his life, his good deeds and miracles became legendary. Besides helping the poor and saving children, legend has it he also calmed raging seas and rescued sailors in distress.
Today reminds everyone about the spirit of giving to those less fortunate.