Saint Nicholas was the actual inspiration for our modern day Santa Claus. A historic fourth century Christian Saint and and bishop in what is now Turkey, he was known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker, he was known for leaving secret gifts such as leaving coins in shoes left out for him.
In Western Christian Countries the day is celebrated on December 6 while in Eastern Countries the day is observed on December 19. In the US he is known as the mythical figure, Santa Claus. In France he is accompanied by a small donkey laden with gifts and sweets for good children.
In the Netherlands shoes are placed out for Saint Nicholas as well as a carrot or hay for the horse he is believed to have accompany him. In Germany a boot is placed outside of doors. If the child has been good, he or she will get treats but those who have been naughty will find sticks in their boots. Children from the Czech Republic and Poland will find treats below their pillows.
In Greece St. Nicholas Day is celebrated with parades and parties. The Day is more associated with the entrance of winter.
In Palestine a church service is held at the beginning of the festival along with parades and feasts.
In the US, the celebration is observed more in cities of of strong German influence such as Cincinnati, Newport News or Milwaukee.
There is some discrepancy as to where his body is buried. Both Italy and Ireland claim to be the final resting place for St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas lived his life serving others for God and would point the way to Jesus, whenever he could. His spirit of giving is what Christmas is all about. That is why it is important to participate in such activities as Samaritan’s Purse, Food Drives, the Salvation Army Red Kettles and many many more.
So how will you follow Saint Nicholas’s example this Christmas? What will you teach your children about serving others?