Monday, December 05, 2011

Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas Poem

Holy Bishop St. Nicholas lived faraway
Near the Aegean Sea is where Turkey did lay.
Travel back with us now to a time long ago.
We will visit his country, his life we will know.

We remember this saint, such a holy, good man.
Be like him in charity, do all that you can.
Many miracles Nicholas hastened to do,
Helping people in need with gifts that were new.

Bishop Nicholas traveled to Nicea town,
Where the Creed would be written, to us handed down.
During church every Sunday, we stand for the Creed.
Thank you Bishop St. Nicholas, for doing this deed.

Sailors tossed in the wind and the storms of the sea,
Saw a vision of Nicholas who guided them free.
Now patron of sailing, they remember him yet.
Many icons and pictures with fisherman's net.

Giving money to poor girls, so marry could they,
Made our Nicholas famous, remembered today.
With dowry in hand, soon they were wed.
"God bless you and keep you," St. Nicholas said.

Kid's patron in Germany, Netherlands, too.
Asks that presents be given to children like you.
Their customs are different: they put out their shoes—
Filling them with toys, his coming's good news!

Here stockings are hung by the chimney with care,
In hope that St. Nicholas soon will come there.
Dressed as bishop or Santa, he's one and the same—
Jolly, friendly, good man, we're glad that he came.

French card, St Nicolas
Call him "Santa" or "saint," they both mean the same,
For his nickname is Claus, short for Nicholas' name.
Giving gifts was his custom—we still do today.
Deeds done in Jesus' name forever will stay.

Bishop Nicholas still is a hero to all.
Christmas Day, and all others we follow his call,
Bringing gifts and some joy to children in need.
Follow Nicholas today—do a good deed.
Author Unknown

Saint Nicholas' Day is special to me.  As a child, on December 6th, I remember every year waking up with my brother and sisters and finding our Christmas stockings filled with fruits, candies, little toys, and coins.  It didn't matter what day of the week it was, whether it was a school day or a weekend, Saint Nick always remembered us with special little treats.

My niece, having little ones, recently asked me about Saint Nicholas, so she could pass the tradition on to her children.  The Saint Nicholas' poem sums up his goodness and generosity.  A couple of facts about Saint Nicholas that I have learned in my searchings:
  • Saint Nicholas was a Catholic bishop who lived in the 4th century.
  • December 6th is the date of his death, and his feastday.
  • He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus.  (Wikipedia - Saint Nicholas)
  • The name "Santa Claus" is an American accented version of the Dutch "Sinterklaas."  (St. Nicholas Center)  
  • Santa means Saint, and Claus is a nickname for Nicholas.  (I can't find where I found this.) 
  • Sinterklaas is an elderly, stately and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard. He wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop's alb and sometimes red stola, dons a red mitre, and holds a gold-coloured crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd's staff with a fancy curled top and he also has a ruby ring. He carries a big book that tells whether each individual child has been good or naughty in the past year. He traditionally rides a white gray.  (Sounds a lot like Santa Claus?)  (Wikipedia - Sinterklaas)  
  • In layman's terms, he wore a white gown, similar to what priests wear under their robes.  Over the gown, he wore a long red cape.  A red stola is a long pleated dress worn over the white gown.  The red mitre is a traditional, ceremonial head-dress of bishops.  (Sounds so much like Santa Claus' outfit.  Even his red cape could be a flimsy red mitre.)
  • He is also the Patron Saint of sailors and ships.  According to one legend, as a young man Nicholas went to study in Alexandria and on one of his sea voyages from Myra to Alexandria he is said to have saved the life of a sailor who fell from the ship's rigging in a storm.  (Maritime-Connector)
So, Jillian, Saint Nicholas' Day is celebrated in many countries.  For our family, it is part of our Polish heritage - a tradition that was passed down from the old country, and, hopefully, will continue to be celebrated through generations to come with many stockings hung.  One interesting bit of information - "in Poland, children polish their winter boots on December 5th and leave them by their beds at night, and by morning of December 6th Saint Nicholas ("Święty Mikołaj") fills the boots with small presents."  We have never used boots, always stockings.  And, no, I don't know when our family changed that tradition.  Maybe Nana knows.

Happy Saint Nicholas' Day!
Aunt Janet

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