Showing posts with label Myrna. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Myrna. Show all posts

Dec 27, 2014

Origin of Christmas Stockings

The tradition of Christmas stockings is said to have originated from the actions of a kind noble man named Nicholas, who was born in March, 270 AD, in Patara, at the time Greek, but now Turkey. While still young, his wealthy parents died in an epidemic. Nicholas became a Christian priest and used all his riches to help the poor, the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He was made Bishop of Myra (modern Turkey) at a young age and became known for his kindness and generosity. He traveled across the country helping people, giving gifts of money and other presents. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, a practice celebrated on his feast day - St Nicholas Day, December 6 in Western Christianity and 19 December in Eastern Christianity. He died December 6, 343 AD. Many still observe December 6 as a St. Nicholas holiday. I grew up enjoying the candy treats thrown on my porch the evening of December 6.

Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of Saint Nicholas' life and deeds. One popular account (with many variations) tells us of a poor peasant who lived happily in a small cottage in Saint Nicholas' hometown, with his wife and three daughters. The wife suddenly died of an illness, leaving the poor man and his three daughters in despair. All the burden of household chores now fell upon the daughters.

When the daughters reached a marriage age, the poor father became depressed for he knew he could in no way marry them off to good men. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value - a dowry, which he could not afford.

Saint Nicholas found out about peasant and his daughters and decided to help him. He went to the peasant's house the night before the eldest daughter came of age, with a bag of gold and waited for the family to go to bed. That night, after finishing their washing for the day, the daughters hung their stockings by the fireplace to dry. As they turned off the lamps and fell asleep, St. Nicholas tiptoed to the cottage window and saw the daughters' stockings hanging close to his reach. He carefully put in his bag of gold in one of the stockings and went away.

When the father found the bag the next morning and opened it, he was delighted to find enough gold in the stocking to pay for the dowry of one daughter. The father was able to provide for his eldest daughter and saw that she got married to a nice groom.

Soon after, Saint Nicholas took another bag of gold, and threw it carefully into another stocking. The next morning the man opened the stocking and found enough gold to marry off his second daughter.

The father had grown eager to discover his mysterious benefactor, and each night he stayed awake. When Saint Nicholas came up with another bag of gold, the man recognized him. He fell on his knees and cried of gratitude and thanked him with all his heart.

This is how the tradition of Christmas stockings is said to have begun.

And below, my Christmas stockings.

Dec 4, 2009

Saint Nicholas Day

St Nicholas died on December 6, 343 and is remembered every year on the 6th of December. It continues in many places, and some cultures still use this occasion to give gifts to children. There are still celebrations in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Milwaukee also has a strong tradition of celebrating "St Nick’s Day," due to its large immigrant German community.

The Dutch celebrate the 'Feast of Sinterklaas', (Santa Claus is a variation of the name), as we celebrate Christmas. Some celebrate on December 5 (like Christmas eve). The myth  involving Sinterklaas is that he rides on his white horse across the roofs of houses, and that his small helpers, who are entirely black and called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), climb down the chimneys and put presents in people's shoes. Children leave a carrot in the shoes for his horse.

St Nicholas (or St Nickolas) was Bishop of Myra (Turkey) and remains the Patron Saint of sailors, fishermen, the falsely accused, pawnbrokers, thieves and a number of cities.

You can see from the picture why old pictures of Santa Claus show the bishop's miter (hat) and staff.

Many miracles and good deeds are attributed to St Nicholas. One relates how a father, who could not afford a dowry for his three daughters (which would mean they were unable to marry, and might have been sold), would find little bags of gold coins thrown through his window, under cover of night. The bags landed on stockings left to dry before the fire. This is why people hang stockings on the fireplace at Christmas, hoping for them to be filled with goodies.

Growing up, we celebrated St. Nicholas day by throwing small bags of candy on neighbor's porches at dusk, then running away. We were always home in time to enjoy the candy treats thrown on our porch.