Saint Nicholas Day

Saint Nicholas Day Quick Facts - EU

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2023 Date6 December 2023
2024 Date6 December 2024

Saint Nicholas Day

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Saint Nicholas Day is a widely celebrated observance in various European countries, honouring the figure of Saint Nicholas, a Christian saint and Greek Bishop, known for his generosity, protection of children, and secret gift-giving. This day serves as a reminder of Saint Nicholas' virtues, and his act of kindness towards the needy and marginalized has inspired various customs and traditions that continue to be celebrated throughout Europe. The Observance promotes essential values of kindness, generosity, and goodwill.

This holiday's roots can be traced back to the 4th century when Saint Nicholas served as the Bishop of Myra, a city that currently lies within modern-day Turkey. Over time, his legend spread across Europe, influencing various cultures, especially in countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France. A significant aspect of Saint Nicholas Day in the European Union is its focus on the promotion of cultural understanding, in an ever more interconnected Europe, as this Observance reflects on shared values and traditions, helping to encourage intercultural dialogue and cooperation throughout the continent.

Saint Nicholas Day is observed differently in various European countries on December 6th. In some countries like the Netherlands, children leave their shoes out the night before, hoping for gifts and treats to be placed inside by Saint Nicholas. In other places like France and Belgium, families gather for festive meals and exchange small gifts, often including chocolates in the shape of Saint Nicholas. German celebrations sometimes include the figure of Knecht Ruprecht, who accompanies Saint Nicholas and serves as a reminder of the importance of good behaviour. These diverse traditions emphasize the richness of European culture while celebrating the shared values inspired by Saint Nicholas.

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Saint Nicholas Day facts

  • Saint Nicholas was born 280 A.D in Patara Lycia, which is modern-day Turkey. He devoted himself to others, even using his inheritance to help the poor and sick.
  • The poem, An Account of a Visit From Saint Nicholas, written in 1820 by Clement Clarke Moore, describes Saint Nicholas as a jolly heavy set man who would come down chimneys and leave gifts for children. This would be the inspiration for Santa Claus.
  • A popular tradition adopted by Christmas is the act of leaving one’s shoes outside their door. Stockings hung on a fireplace mantel are also common. During the night, Saint Nicholas comes. In the morning, those shoes and stockings are found full of gifts and treats.
  • St. Nicholas was born in Patara (modern-day Turkey) in the third century AD and later became the Bishop of Myra (present-day Demre, Turkey). His parents, both Orthodox Christians, died when he was young, leaving him a sizable inheritance which he used to help the needy.
  • St. Nicholas was known for his humble, secret acts of kindness. One famous story tells of his anonymously helping a poor man by providing dowries for his three daughters, preventing them from falling into poverty and prostitution.

Top things to do in the EU for Saint Nicholas Day

  • Be kind and charitable. As a patron saint, Saint Nicholas was very generous and was well known for giving to others.
  • Continue the German tradition of baking Stutenkerl. Stutenkerl is a German pastry made from sweet, leavened dough. It is shaped in the form of a man, a reference to Saint Nicholas.
  • Children often write letters to Saint Nicholas, expressing their wishes and good behavior. These letters are sometimes left out with their shoes or placed in special mailboxes.
  • Saint Nicholas was known for his compassion and generosity. Many people use this day as an opportunity to engage in acts of charity and kindness, such as donating to the less fortunate or volunteering.

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