Have you been nice this year? Or have you been naughty? Maybe a little bit of both? There’s one person who knows for sure.
That’s right, we’re talking about Santa Claus. Every year, he makes a list — and checks it twice — to find out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
But several weeks before Christmas, there’s another day that many children around the world look forward to. The day is Saint Nicholas Day, and it occurs each year on December 6.
“St. Nick’s Day,” as it’s sometimes called, is widely celebrated in Europe, as well as many communities in the United States that have strong German, Polish, Belgian or Dutch roots. The day celebrates the legend of the goodness and generosity of Saint Nicholas.
Nikolaos (that’s “Nicholas” in Greek) was born in 270 A.D. in a small Greek village on the southern coast of what is now Turkey. He dedicated his life to serving God and grew up to become the bishop of Myra.
Nikolaos was believed to have performed many miracles in his lifetime. In fact, he was often called “Nikolaos the Wonderworker.” According to Christian tradition, Nikolaos was named a saint in recognition for his many miracles and good deeds.
Saint Nicholas died on December 6, 343 A.D. The anniversary of his death became a feast day of celebration — Saint Nicholas Day — on December 6 each year thereafter.
Saint Nicholas also had a reputation for giving secret gifts by putting coins in people’s shoes during the night. Today, according to tradition, children put their shoes outside their bedroom doors on the evening of December 5.
Saint Nicholas visits overnight. Then, on the morning of December 6, children awake to find their shoes full of small gifts and candy.
The celebration of Saint Nicholas Day in early December, along with his reputation as a gift-giver, has led many to associate Saint Nicholas with Santa Claus. Some people even call Santa Claus by the nickname (pun totally intended) “St. Nick” from time to time.
Of course, St. Nick isn’t the only other name Santa Claus goes by. Around the world, Santa Claus has many different names.
If you ever find yourself in a foreign country in late December, it may be helpful to know what Santa is called in that part of the world. Here’s a small sample of a few of the names Santa goes by around the world:
- Afghanistan — Baba Chaghaloo
- Belgium — Pere Noel
- Chile — Viejo Pascuero (“Old Man Christmas”)
- England — Father Christmas
- Italy — Babbo Natale
- Norway — Julenissen (“Christmas gnome”)
- Russia — Ded Moroz (“Grandfather Frost”)
- Sweden — Jultomten (“Christmas brownie”)