Saint Nicholas and Your Shoes
On Wednesday 6th December FARA Charity Shops will be having 20% off all shoes to mark Saint Nicholas' day. We want to share with you what Saint Nicholas has to do with your shoes and the traditions observed on the patron saint of children's day in Romania.
Saint Nicholas day is celebrated across many European and Eastern countries. Saint Nicholas is known as 'Mos Nicolae' (Old Man Nicholas) in Romanian. he is the patron saint of children as well as sailors, merchants, brewers, pawnbrokers and students too! With a long white beard, bishops miter, red cloak and sack over his shoulder he bears more than a passing resemblance to Father Christmas. He has the legendary habit of secret gift-giving which predates and gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus ('Saint Nick' - Sinterklass) brought to America by dutch immigrants in the 17th Century.
The Romanian tradition goes that on the eve of the 5th December children polish their shoes to show that they have been good and leave them by the door in the hope that Saint Nicholas will leave them some small presents (usually sweets and fruit) and sometimes a switch of wood supposedly as a punishment for children who have been naughty.
The tradition of present giving (by parents to their children) on the 6th December apparently comes from the Medieval time in the Low Countries in Europe. On this day sailors and ex-sailors (virtually all of the male population at the time) would head to harbour towns to join church celebrations for their patron saint. On the way back home they would stop at one of the various Nicholas fairs to buy some hard-to-come-by goods, gifts for their loved ones and invariably some little presents for their children. While the real gifts would be given at Christmas, the little presents for the children were gifted right way, courtesy of Saint Nicholas.
Pictured here are children from FARA's Tackling Poverty Through Education programme receiving gifts from FARA Charity on Saint Nicholas day 2016
Did you know that Saint Nicholas is also responsible for the invention of the Christmas stocking? This tradition grew from the story of when Saint Nicholas, threw bags of dowry money, through and open window, into the home of an impoverished family to rescue their daughters from being sold into slavery. One bag fell into a stocking which hanging on the mantle piece to dry. The three bags of gold are often represented as three oranges - the symbol of Saint Nicholas.
Who was Saint Nicholas? He was born 207 AD in the Anatolia region of modern day Turkey. His parents died of a plague when he was young leaving him great wealth. After this Nicholas began to serve the poor near his home and in the surrounding towns and countryside. He lived a holy and humble life. It was not an age known for protecting children. Instead they were often left to beg when they lost their parents and live in poverty.
Every year FARA Charity's founder Jane Nicholson spends the 6th December with the children and young people from FARA's programmes who join together for a 'family' celebration at St. Nicholas Family Home. Saint Nicholas is a fitting namesake for the first FARA Family Home which opened 20 years ago in Suceava, Northern Romania. Saint Nicholas was famous for his generosity to the poor and protection of the wronged and FARA shares many of his values:
"FARA is a work of love and one that reaches out to the marginalised, the poor and the discriminated children and young people in Romania." - click here to find out more about FARA Charity's history and values.