It is interesting to learn from my coworkers about their different cultures and traditions. Several different accents can be heard in the pastry kitchen where I work. Although a few of us are Ohio natives, the others come from Mexico, Russia, Poland, and Austria.
While we here in the USA think that we’ve got almost another three weeks to prepare for Santa’s arrival, the Europeans are already busy shining their shoes and getting their stockings ready for a visit from Saint Nicholas. The children expect to wake on December 6th and find a gift of an orange, nuts, and possibly a bit of chocolate.
I’m no expert, so you may like to find out more at the St. Nicholas Center.
Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.