The Feast of Saint Nicholas

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.
My father 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, 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 in 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 display at Christmas.
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 loudly about his aching feet after a trudge through the snow getting 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.

3 Replies to “The Feast of Saint Nicholas”

  1. Happy St. Nicholas Day, Lou. I was telling my daughter how we put shoes outside the door the night before and he would bring us an orange and a few nuts or something in our shoes if we had been good. An indicator of how Christmas was going to go. I think I did it for a while for my children when they were small but don’t think it made much of an impression. That’s the St. Nicholas I remember from childhood in Germany as well. Our customs were so different than here. I love who St. Nicholas was compared the coke and cookie sucking Santa of today. Great story. Mom was only an Easter Christian after making us beautiful new outfits she had to show us off somewhere. I thought it funny that she was a staunch atheist the rest of the year. Dad an agnostic. Christmas was a big deal growing up in our house. But no decor of any sentimental value ever survived all the moves we went through. I like that you have at least something of sentiment. Great story.

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  2. In this country, it’s tough to keep Saint Nicholas’ feast day so close to Christmas. I just try to remind my sons about it although they range on the agnostic side of things. My mother liked to throw things out so I think the little Santa owes his survival to my sister.
    Saint Nicholas, the full twelve days, and the three wise men get short changed in American Christmas. Too bad.
    Nice to hear about the tradition in your family too. Things are only valuable because they stimulate the process of recall.

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  3. Happy feast of Saint Nicholas! I was so surprised to learn that there is no patron saint of woodcarvers, seems very unfair that bankers and thieves got Saint Nicholas, no less!

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