Mood 07:50 19 Dec 2020

Facts about holiday of kindness. How to celebrate St. Nicholas Day

We also talk about why the world Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, looks rather atypical for the saint. And why this image is close to the truth.

December is a month of gifts, magical events, and amazing holidays. They begin with the day of St. Nicholas, always celebrated on December 19.

A Christian saint, known as Nicholas the Wonderworker, remembered and revered by Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Christians as a historical figure and a great saint, cares for soldiers, drivers, and travelers, helps the poor in need, is considered the patron saint of children and students, sailors, and traders.

According to the few written sources that survived to our time, Nicholas was born about 280 in the Greek colony of Patara. His parents were wealthy and deeply religious Christians who baptized their son immediately after his birth, which was a rarity at that time. From an early age, Nicholas was very religious, and as a young man, he set the goal of devoting his life to divine service. After the death of his parents, Nicholas receives a vast inheritance, which he gives to the needy and carries out the idea further.

According to legend, St. Nicholas, who later became Bishop of Miriam, was an extremely decent man. He always sympathized with the poor and helped them in every way. In order not to humiliate the needy with alms, he placed gifts under the doors and windows. Legends tell of the extraordinary power of his prayers. Once he calmed a storm at sea, saving fishers from imminent death. The Wonderworker's word also had healing properties: the saint healed the crippled and the sick, saved those doomed to execution from death.

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The bishop, respected by the inhabitants of Myra, died around 345. The day of his death is celebrated as the Day of Saint Nicholas or Feast of Saint Nicholas.

The veneration of St. Nicholas came to Ukrainian lands together with Christianity. The oldest building dedicated to this saint is the Church of St. Nicholas, which was built by the boyar Olma no later than the 10th century above the grave of Prince Askold of Kyiv, the earliest known ruler of Kyiv, mentioned in mentioned in both the Primary Chronicle, the Novgorod First Chronicle, and the Nikon Chronicle. The name of the church was given by the name Askold took during his baptism in 867 — Mykola. One of the oldest in the Galician lands is the church of St. Nicholas in Lviv, dating from the 13th century.

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Saint Nicholas Church in Lviv.

How Ukrainians used to celebrate St. Nicholas Day?

The winter holiday St.Nicholas Day has become one of Ukrainians' favorites. It was always greeted with joy: with songs, music, ritual actions, and fun. In each region, the rituals had different manifestations: going around the courtyards, St. Nicholas carols, St. Nicholas violinists, and competitions of musicians and singers. Songs about St. Nicholas are the oldest samples of Ukrainian folk poetry, the most popular of which is "Oh who, who loves Nicholas."

Also, on this day, various agreements were made, and debts were paid — Ukrainians believed that when the saint walked through the village, no one would deceive.

Why gifts?

Nowadays, children are most happy about the arrival of St. Nicholas because, on the morning of December 6, they find gifts and sweets under their pillows, which, according to belief, the saint leaves them as a reward for good behavior and all the good deeds they have done during the year.

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Traditions of presenting children with gifts from Nicholas, who has his name in every language, also exist in other countries.

Even in medieval Germany, parents put clothes, toys, and sweets in shoes or socks, which the child placed next to the fireplace the day before. Naughty children received a birch rod instead of treats. In the Czech Republic, there is a legend that St. Mikulás comes accompanied by an angel and a devil: each of them has a book in which the good and bad deeds of the child are noted, based on which the saint decides whether the child is worthy of gifts. In Austria, on the eve of the holiday, an evil spirit also runs through the cities, which Nikolaus dispels, going to distribute gifts to children who have already put their polished shoes outside the door. Usually, a carrot or some hay is put in the boots to comfort Saint Nicholas's donkey. In the Netherlands, children believed that Sinterklaas came to Rotterdam every year on a ship from Spain, representing "warm countries." In France, one of the provinces of which (Lorraine) Père Noël is the patron saint, St. Nicholas Day even became an official holiday.День Святого Миколая

An image worth a million

Chubby, red-cheeked, and cheerful Santa Claus, whose appearance bears little resemblance to the images of canonical saints, moved to the United States from the Netherlands after slightly changing his name. This character gained worldwide popularity thanks to the Coca-Cola company in 1931. The fairy-tale grandfather's red and white outfit symbolized the company's main colors. Moreover, the artist drew Coca-Cola Santa from a very real person — his friend and neighbor Lou Prentice. Now, the kind, fair, and sociable Santa is adored by little Americans and children in almost all corners of the planet.

A few years ago, scientists from the Laboratory of Facial Anatomy at the University of Liverpool named after John Moore, recreated a three-dimensional portrait of St. Nicholas. Interestingly, the image of Santa turned out to be very similar to the real image of Nicholas. To reproduce the appearance of St. Nicholas, scientists used anthropometric and historical data, applying a unique technology of restoration of facial bones and tissues and three-dimensional interactive technology. Liverpool visualization is now considered the most realistic and accurate.

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Reproduced image of St. Nicholas

What to do on St. Nicholas Day?

No matter how the saint is called in different countries, his mission remains the same everywhere: to bring joy to both children and adults. After all, the wizard in a warm coat comes with a big bag of gifts, not only for children. Adults are also happy to give each other small presents for the first December holiday. It's always nice to return to childhood for a day or spend a little time being a St. Nicholas for a loved one.

Ukrainian children have long had a tradition of writing letters to the saint on the eve of the holiday, in which children diligently tell about their good deeds for the year and also ask for gifts.

Being a good child is not just about doing well in school and obeying your parents. The personality of St. Nicholas teaches humanity and kindness, compassion and generosity, dedication and honesty. This day should be devoted not only to eating sweets but also to vivid examples of mutual help and care, helping the disadvantaged, the poor, and the sick, and caring for domestic and homeless animals.

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Kindness and humanity should be taught to children from an early age. It is unnecessary to arrange little-understood abstract lectures for little ones. Introducing appropriate simple activities into the daily routine, which the child will perform with pleasure, is better. Example:

  • offer the child to do something nice for the teacher — it can be a painted picture as a gift or a treat;
  • invite all your friends to play together with your child. Explain that it is bad when someone is not invited to play;
  • if you have several children, let them take turns choosing a movie to watch together in the evening;
  • if you want to talk about morality, come from afar. For example, together with the children, watch a cartoon or a movie
  • corresponding to the topic and offer to discuss its main idea, look for the motives of the characters' behavior;
  • help make a craft for grandparents and mail it to them;
  • encourage the child to help you with household chores. Choose the tasks for the child according to their age;
  • explain why it is important to say the words "thank you" and "please";
  • a good family tradition is literary evenings. Arrange them regularly. Discuss the books and the actions of the characters. In this way, you will be able to unobtrusively instill the correct moral guidelines in your children;
  • help homeless or lonely older adults, and tell your child why it is important;
  • donate toys that the child no longer plays with to charity. Explain that this can help other children who are less fortunate in life;
  • build together a bird feeder, a house for a street dog or cat;
  • involve children in caring for indoor plants. If your child loves nature and is impressed by the beauty of the world around them, they will want to protect it.

Then, they will have something to write about to St. Nicholas with pride and a sense of personal involvement. Gifts for the holiday will not be perceived as a tribute but as a real reward.

The best way to teach children kindness is through the positive example of their parents. When you are kind to your friends, family, and strangers, children will learn from you.

Remember and instill good traditions. Give and receive gifts. And enjoy the holiday.

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