Who was St Nicholas?

Over the next 18 days, children around the world will be counting down the days, beside themselves with excitement for the annual visit of an elderly gentleman who will bring them gifts – if they’ve been good.  We call him Father Christmas or Santa Claus – and this latter name shows the origins of the legend, as it is widely thought to be a corruption of the name “Saint Nicholas”.

Saint Nicholas has his feast day today, 6th December, and it is actually a public holiday in many countries, a day for children to get gifts from the Saint, to play games, have parties, and do many of the things we also associate with Christmas.  As well as being a traditional festival, it is seen as a way of having the commercial side of the festive season, while keeping Christmas for its true religious purpose.

So who was Saint Nicholas? Historically, he was a 4th Century Bishop in modern-day Turkey.  He was a respected theologian and holy man in his time, and an important player in the development of church hierarchy and formal Christian belief.

However, it was for the legends and miracles associated with him that he became best known.  His most famous characteristic was generosity, and he became known for acts of charity towards the poor in his region.  He was a modest man and made his donations in secret, leaving money, food and other gifts for those who needed them.  As his fame grew, people would leave shoes outside their door for him to slip a few coins into during the night.

Two particular stories helped cement his reputation and fame. The first concerns his gift of money to help the three daughters of a poor but devout man, saving them from the need to become prostitutes to make ends meet.  He is said to have thrown the money through an open window and it landed in stockings hung by the fire to dry.  The second is a miracle, in which Saint Nicholas discovered that a butcher had killed three children to sell as meat during a famine and resurrected the children by his prayers.

Hst nicholasis life and the stories told about him led to Nicholas being venerated as a Saint, celebrated particularly for generosity to the less fortunate and protection of children.  He is the patron saint of children, merchants, sailors and even thieves.

It is incredible to realise how many of our modern Santa Claus traditions are directly linked to this early 4th Century Turkish bishop.  Remember him when you hang up your Christmas stocking this year!

Many thanks to Ian of IAB Tours for this post.

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How do they celebrate Christmas in Denmark?

presents under a Christmas treeThis is a guest post from Anne Christine Jensen of RS Globalization.

Some of the most typically Danish Christmas traditions in December are: almost all families have a decoration with a “kalenderlys” (calendar candle) on which we count the days until Christmas Eve.

It’s also a tradition that the families have an Advent decoration with four candles – one for each of the four Sundays until Christmas.

Each evening in December it’s also a tradition for the children (and even some adults) to watch “julekalender” (a special “made for Christmas” series) on the television. There are 24 episodes, one for each day until Christmas Eve.  Most years there is also a special made “julekalender” for adults.

In Denmark we celebrate Christmas Eve, the 24th of December. Often families meet in the afternoon and drink coffee together and  “hygger sig” (have fun together). In many families it’s a tradition to go to church to a worship in the afternoon too.

In the afternoon it’s also a tradition to see the “Disneys Juleshow: Fra Alle Os til Alle Jer“ (“The Disney Christmas Show: From All of Us to All of You”). The show always shows the same shorts and some clips from films and at the end of the show a sneak peak of new movies or recently released Disney movies are revealed.

In the evening the families eat the well-prepared Christmas dinner together. It’s different from family to family what the traditional Christmas dinner consists of, but some of the most common dinners include one of these meats:  “flæskesteg” (pork), duck, goose or turkey. With that we eat white potatoes, sugar glazed sweet potatoes, cabbage and gravy. For dessert the traditional dish is “ris à la mande”, which is cold rice porridge with whipped cream, chopped almonds and warm cherry sauce. One whole almond is put into the rice porridge on one of the plates and the person that gets this almond receives a “mandelgave” (= a present) –it’s often chocolate.

After the dinner and a little pause, the families get ready to dance around the tree. Everyone joins hands in a circle around the tree and while walking around the tree, we sing traditional Christmas songs. When we have finished with the dancing and singing, we start getting the presents. In families with small children “Santa Claus” comes with the presents, but when the children are a bit older, the present are normally just under the Christmas tree and are delegated by a person from the family.

Thanks again to Anne Christine for this post. Anne works at RS_Globalization Services, which provides multilingual translation and localization services to SMEs and corporate clients. RS_Globalization Services is EN15038 certified.

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