St. Nicolas Day
This year: Friday, December 06, 2013
On December 6, France celebrates St. Nicolas's Day. The eve of the holiday, on December 5, many people anonymously offer each other beautifully adorned presents and cards with rhymes about the addressee. They are actually meant to signify St. Nicolas writing them himself.
According to the myth, St. Nicolas was a close relative of Santa-Claus. He was really born in the IV century on the territory of modern Turkey. Nicolas was a bishop in the city of Myra and, having inherited an immense treasure from his parents, he gave all the money to the poor. All the people, and especially children, loved him for his kindness. The bishop died on December 6 in 343, and in 1089 his remnants were taken to Italy. Since that, December 6 has become a feast to honor the Saint, being in the same time a big holiday for children.
According to the old tradition, St. Nicolas has a long white beard, rides a horse and comes "from Spain". Nobody knows why Spain is involved, but the tradition is though respected. On the day of his arrival in a city, a big procession takes place, and until the end of year the Saint visits different child-care centers every day.
As Christmas approaches, St. Nicolas starts visiting private houses. As he comes unexpectedly, children have always a big surprise. The saint asks them to come nearer and tell him about their behavior and progress at school. But what the children don't know is that, being a Saint, Nicholas already knows every single thing about them. So he can very well advise or give them small tips for realizing their projects.
Gifts come afterwards. In the evening children leave one or both of their shoes at the fireplace or at the window. Sometimes they even put some hay, carrots, or bread for St. Nicolas's horse. The saint will ride over the roofs of the houses stopping here and there - leaving presents for the kids. Some traditional gifts are: honey gingerbread, cream lollypops, piglet, St. Nicolas and his horse made of marzipan.