When is St. Nicholas Day 2017?
This year, St. Nicholas Day is Wednesday, December 6th, 2017.
Every year on this day, people named Nicholas, Nicole, Nichole, Nikola etc. celebrate their name day.
Who is St. Nicholas?
The true story of Santa Claus begins with St. Nicholas who was born in 270 AD.
He was a bishop in Asia-Minor (Modern day Turkey).
Saint Nicholas was Person Who Helped Those in Need
His wealthy parents 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.
I love following the Blessed is She Instagram account and I took a screenshot of this story they shared the other day that really helps us understand St. Nicholas' life and deeds and why he is so beloved.
One day, he heard of an impoverished family with three daughters. They had no dowries and were going to be sold to slavery.
Mysteriously on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home - providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, early awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
How is St. Nicholas Day Celebrated in Poland?
In many Polish households, the morning of December 6th, is referred to as Mikołajki in Polish.
Children find small gifts under their pillows, in their slippers or (nowadays more and more often) in a stocking carefully hung out for that purpose the evening before. The gifts are usually tiny – small toys or sweets are the most popular option, since bigger presents are still yet to be given on Christmas Eve, by the very same person – Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas or Santa Claus.
So, why does he visit Polish kids twice a year?
In the past it was on the Saint Nicholas feast when the little ones received gifts, and Poles generally did not hand out presents on Christmas Eve.
With time, when the Western customs of giving major gifts around Christmas started to reach Poland, it became natural that Mikołajki is just a prelude to bigger celebrations starting on December 24th.
How is St. Nicholas Day Celebrated in Germany?
On the night of December 5 (in some places, the evening of Dec. 6), in small communities in Austria and the Catholic regions of Germany, a man dressed as der Heilige Nikolaus (St. Nicholas, who resembles a bishop and carries a staff) goes from house to house to bring small gifts to the children.
Accompanying him are several ragged looking, devil-like Krampus, who mildly scare the children. Although Krampus/Knecht Ruprecht carries eine Rute (a rod), he only teases the children with it, while St. Nicholas hands out small gifts to the children. In some regions, there are other names for both Nikolaus and Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht in northern Germany).
When I was an exchange student in Germany, Saint Nikolaus and Krampus both made a personal appearance at my host family's home. Krampus mentioned to children and parents in the neighborhood some things the children did well and also some itmes they misbehaved as a reminder to listen to their parents.
Nikolaus and Krampus don’t always make a personal appearance. In some places today, children still leave their shoes by the window or the door on the night of Dec. 5. They awaken the next day (Dec. 6) to discover small gifts and goodies stuffed into the shoes, left by St. Nicholas. This is similar to the American Santa Claus custom, although the dates are different. Also similar to American custom, the children may leave a wish list for Nikolaus to pass on to the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) for Christmas.
How Croatians Celebrate St. Nicholas Day
In northern and central Croatia, St. Nicholas (Sveti Nikola) brings gifts to children on his feast day, December 6th. It is the main day for gift-giving.
On the night of December 5th, children polish their boots until they gleam before placing them on a windowsill or near the door to wait for the saint. St. Nicholas fills well behaved children's shoes with candy, fruit, dried fruit and gifts. Krampus, who comes along with the saint, leaves golden twigs for naughty children—the worse the behavior, the larger the twig.
Don't worry though - every one gets a twig as a warning; every one gets sweets as well!
What is a Name Day?
A name day is the day that corresponds to a date in the Catholic calendar when the respective saint's day is celebrated.
When it’s your name day, you are congratulated by a large number of people. This is especially true in European countries and it is SO nice.
This is due to the fact that the date of birth is seldom known and the person's name is known to many.
This is extra true for me because my name day is a well known and oft celebrated day of the year.
Name Days in Poland aka Imieniny
Traditionally, name day celebrations (Polish: imieniny) have enjoyed a celebratory emphasis greater than that of birthday celebrations in Poland.
However, birthday celebrations are increasingly popular and important, particularly among the younger generations. Imieniny involve the gathering and socializing of friends and family at the celebrant's home, as well as the giving of gifts and flowers at home and elsewhere, such as at the workplace.
Local calendars often contain the names celebrated on a given day.
How I Celebrate My Name Day
I have a slightly complicated history with my name. When I was younger, all of my Polish-American friends had really cool, super Polish names.
I was born in the United States (first Generation American here), my parents decided to name me a more American name.
Nowadays, Nicole and Nikola are popular, well known and used names in Poland but when I was growing up, it just sounded so American to me compared to my sister's name Dominika and our friends Paulina, Malvina, Klaudia, Katarzyna, Magda, Camila, Agatka, Patrycja.
The other thing you might notice is that girls names in Poland end with an a. Even though my parents, of course, Polish-ified my name to Nikusia, Nikola, and Nikolka, It technically didn’t end with an a and that bothered me. I love all variations of my name and I love celebrating my name day on St. Nicholas Day every year.
My husband always makes sure I get a visit from St. Nicholas (and Krampus too) which still surprises me every year! I make sure to leave a (tall!) boot out on the night of December 5th.
Last year, I got a twig in my boot as well as tickets to the aquarium. We had so much fun!
Do you celebrate your name day?
Do you know when your name day is?
Let me know and if you want to find out when your name day is, ask me below and I’ll find out!
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Polish-American Polyglot, Language Expert, German Teacher, M.Ed., married to my dream guy, the Croatian Sensation. Let's connect!
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