Saint Nicholas of Myra is the patron saint of children, sailors, thieves, bankers ( wait that seems to be real close to thieves), pawnbrokers, scholars, travelers, perfumers, and a multitude of others. As most of you may know Nick is linked to the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas, and to the chimney sliding olympics. This last bit was evidently due to his dropping coins down a chimney. It’s amazing what can develop from a simple act of charity and kindness. Our family connection may come from seafaring over the generations.
My father ( a Nicholas of course) was an “Easter and Christmas Christian,” and my mother was about the same. Dad did note that there was a tradition of naming boys in the family Nicholas after the Saint. And, when I started researching the Carreras family history, Nicholas’ were everywhere. Our Carreras’ originate in Girona, Catalonia. So many Nicholas Carreras’ were baptized in the same churches that it becomes challenging to differentiate potential ancestors.
I have a personal attachment to Saint Nicholas, being I am Louis Nicholas Carreras, and although woodcarvers got neglected in the calendar of saints, I would nominate Nicholas patron saint of sailors and woodcarvers.
The photo accompanying this post is of our family Santa. This Saint Nick dates to the early 1940s, and I don’t recall a Christmas in our house without it. Note that it is not a jolly richly attired Clement Clarke Moore Santa, nor a Coke swizzling, cooking slurping overweight Saint Nick. It’s a tired older man with a walking stick and a basket full of presents. It is a type of Saint Nick that could found in German, or my Grandmother’s case, German- Hungarian homes. And, that is where the preference for this Santa comes. My father bought it in a German delicatessen in New York one Christmas, and no Christmas in the Carreras home would have been complete without it. My Grandmother, who could get most of whatever she wanted from my Dad, tried without luck to get it for her apartment. There would have been an instant mutiny if it had changed households. If Grandma wanted to appreciate it, she had to come to our house to do so.
After my father died, Santa migrated to Virginia. It was at my sister’s house for many years. But, a few years ago, Santa came north to New England and now graces our home at Christmas.
Note that Santa is not richly attired in plush or velvet, does not have a vast flowing beard – and has no magic sled pulled by flying deer. He’s the sort of Santa that complains about his aching feet after a trudge through the snow getting your kids their presents. He has no Santa Hot Line, and NORAD does not track him. He represents simple goodwill and love. We do not need more during his feast day or at Christmas.
Happy feast of Saint Nicholas.