Once upon a time in the costal village of Patara there was a young boy who lost his parents during an epidemic. Overcome by grief but good at heart, Nicholas, for that was his name, decided to use his whole inheritance to aid the needy, the sick and the suffering. While growing up, Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra and he became famous for his generosity and dedication to doing good, his love for children and concern for sailors. Nicholas eventually died on December 6 in the year AD 343, but his goodness became his heritage and his day of death became a day of celebration.
After his death, the popularity of Saint Nicholas increased and his tomb became such a much sought after pilgrimage, the locals became concerned and it was decided to secretly move his remnants to another grave, this one located somewhere in Spain. It is this action that eventually triggered the most famous story and tradition of all. The legend of the red cloaked, white bearded saint, who travels once a year by steamboat in the company of his many colourful helpers and a shining white gray, to bring presents and the learnings of goodness. Each year Saint Nicholas arrives in countries such as Belgium, Germany, Poland and The Netherlands, where he is seen riding his horse over the roofs, wearing his high mitre and carrying his gold crosier while dropping candy and gifts for children in chimneys in exchange for kids drawings, carrots for his horse and children songs that fill the cold winter nights in his honor. Each year, many children’s hearts beat faster when the days are getting shorter and the nights colder, when powdery snow settles on the deserted streets and they expectantly look out of their windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of the good Saint on his loyal horse. And on the night of December 5, the night before he died, all children get to open their treasures and, once every gift has been unwrapped, sing songs to thank him for his kindness and benevolence. And the spirit of Saint Nicholas smiles down on them before silently disappearing out of their lives, leaving them filled with virtue for another year to come.–BM-
Cover photography by John Clum.
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