“Do not forget to clean your boots and put them on the window sill” – I still can hear my father’s words in my ears. The words he used to say every year the day before 6th of December.
St. Nicholas day is popular especially with children who are given presents. Mostly sweets, chocolates and various small toys. According to this tradition they should clean their shoes and put them on the window sill in the evening. The next morning they find a lovely surprise in them. The customs and legends associated to St. Nicholas Day 6th December gradually grew into the form known today, however are difficult to prove.
There are plenty of legends about St. Nicholas. Perhaps the most famous is the one that tells the story of a poor father of three daughters. He did not have enough money for a dowry for three daughters and decided that he will make them courtesans. When St. Nicholas heard about it he secretly dropped a lump of gold (some sources indicate pouch) into the house of a poor father, so he rescued girls from humiliating fate.
According to another legend St Nicholas saved three sailors who found themselves captive in a stormy sea. The third legend pictures St Nicholas as the saviour of the three young men who were supposed to be killed by a landlord who would store their dead bodies in drums.
So where the story about sweets and St Nicholas did came from?
Some say that the tradition originated in the Netherlands and slowly spread to America. Northern immigrants believed their superstitions, so the tradition that originated in the Netherlands joined the legend of the wizard who brings children good gifts, and punishes naughty children. Other possibility is that the tradition began in Germany and it is associated with a game about Bishop played by children once a year in a monastery school – one of the children was a Bishop for the night. The game dates back to the tenth century. According to available information, sometimes in the thirteen century, the game Bishop was moved to 6th December – St Nicholas Day.
Today, well know Santa Clause is the figure of the bishop created by media and advertising companies and only few children know who really St Nicholas was and where this beautiful legend of St Nicholas a story of Christmas giving and tradition came from.
So do not forget to clean your shoes, put them on the window sill and learn a nice poem or rhyme to tell it to St Nicholas when you meet him.