December 6: Saint Nicholas Traditions

December 6: Saint Nicholas Traditions


During the Advent period, a great saint of the Church is celebrated – Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, and he is commemorated on 6th December (19th December, Old Calendar). He is also the patron saint of Greece, and the patron saint for students, merchants, pawnbrokers, and children.

Presents are given on this day. As Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, boats are decorated. (Watch for a post coming soon about Karavaki, little ships.)

Gifts in shoes or socks
One tradition practiced on the eve of Saint Nicholas’ feastday is for children to leave their shoes outside the front door of their house for Saint Nicholas. In the morning, they should find small gifts, such as sweets, fruit, toys, and a few coins. This symbolizes the great charitable works of the saint. It also commemorates when Saint Nicholas saved the three peasant daughters from a life of prostitution, when he threw gold coins in their window for their marriage dowries. The coins are traditionally believed to have landed in their stockings/shoes close to the fireplace. The saint did this on three nights, once for each daughter.

Other gifts one can leave in children’s shoes are:
• gold coins – representing the money he threw into the window of a poor family’s house
• a toy representing the toys he had commissioned a toymaker to make for poor children
• something that represents the saint’s devotion to God: a spiritually oriented book, an icon, cross or prayer rope.
• something to represent the food he would give to the poor (fruit, nuts etc).
• an item of clothing representing him clothing the poor.
• a toy ship symbolizing the many sailors saved through his prayers.

Another tradition is to do a charitable work or make a donation anonymously, as this is what St Nicholas always did. Use Saint Nicholas’ feastday to give to the poor and needy, whether in money or clothing. Saint Nicholas models obedience to Christ by feeding the hungry, helping strangers, and caring for prisoners (Matthew 25:34-36).

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Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

About author

Chris Vlahonasios

Chris Vlahonasios is a law graduate from Victoria University and Orthodox media writer for TRANSFIGURE Media.