Monday, 5 December 2011

St. Nicholas Day - Nikolaustag

Creation by Kathy Avakian - PillowBeach

Each year on December 6, German children celebrate 'Nikolaustag'.

Saint Nicholas "Lipensky", 1294 Russian icon

The true story begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara.
At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey.
His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian,
died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young.
Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor",
Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering.
He dedicated his life to serving God and was made
Bishop of Myra while still a young man.  Bishop Nicholas became known
throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children,
and his concern for sailors and ships.
He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church.

Painting by Utrahec  (wikipedia)

Stories about St. Nicholas were first told while he was living,
as sailors already claimed him as their patron saint.  Sailing to different ports and along rivers,
they carried Nicholas stories throughout Europe.  As stories were told and retold,
imaginative and sometimes miraculous details were added -
details which vary in different accounts of the same episode.
Only a unique and special person inspires such a rich legacy.
These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character
and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters:
In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value - a dowry.
The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband.
Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry.  This poor man's daughters
were therefore destined to be sold into slavery.  Mysteriously, on three different occasions,
 a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries.
  The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, 
are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.....

 The dowry for the three virgins
Gentile da Fabriano, c. 1425, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome

....This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes,
eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls,
 sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas.
And so St. Nicholas - unser guter lieber Nikolaus - is a gift-giver.

St. Nicholas, created by the highly talented  Daryl McMahon
to see more please visit his blog:     here 

Creation by  Daryl McMahon

In Germany, children put a boot called Nikolaus-Stiefel (Nikolaus boot),
or a stocking, outside the front door on the night of 5 December.
St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts and sweets overnight, and at the same time
 checks up on the children to see if they were good, polite and helpful the last year.
If they were not, they will have a tree branch (Rute) in their boots instead,
though shoes or stockings will suffice for those without boots.


Beautiful creations of Christmas stockings....
each one unique and original....

....made of old German grain sacks and French textiles
by  Kathy Avakian - PillowBeach
available at Etsy:      here

So, all you "Girls" and "Boys".....
don't forget to get your shoes or stockings out this evening,
St. Nicholas is waiting for you!


  1. Dear Karfin, Thank you so much for this beautiful post. It brings back so many lovely menories of my childhood, growing up in Germany.
    Not only are your images special and the history you researched so very interesting, it is the entire story which makes coming to your blog so very special.

  2. Dear Karin, Sorry, I misspelled your name. I need to be more careful. Happy St. Nichold Day to you and yours. Gina

  3. What a wonderful tradition and I honestly didn't know why we hung stockings, good to know. Happy St. Nicholas Day tomorrow and hey it's Dylan's birthday as well, I knew he was

  4. Oh, Karin, I had never heard this lovely story, so thank you for making us Americans aware of the prelude to Santa Claus. And, those stockings! To die for. See you tomorrow for our BIO party.

  5. Na dann stell mal hurtig deine Stiefel vor die Tür!
    Vielleicht bringt Nikolaus ja auch großen Kindern was!


    Liebe Grüße!

  6. I love knowing all the details as I will be going with a German friend tonight to fill some little shoes, sparking clean and polished, with treats. This is my first!


  7. Wonderful post...loved seeing the stockings and the St. Nicholas, created by Daryl McMahon.

  8. This is a lovely post and I enoyed it so much!


  9. I'm going to be sure Pieter sees this post as he loves Sinterklaas Eve and setting out his wooden shoes.

  10. A lovely piece of history - I was unaware of the details of St Nicholas.
    Your images are delightful - as always. Thank you for introducing us to Daryl McMahon and Kathy Avakian. Their stockings and decorations would make precious heirloom pieces. As you know, I love items with history.
    Bonne semaine. Bisous