Melanie's Muses is pleased to welcome Jennifer Bollnow with a guest spotlight feature about St. Nicholas Day! Be sure to let us know what you think of her article in the comments below!
Many tales have been told of his generosity and possible miracles. One story was of 3 daughters, whose father had lost all his money. The father had no money to pay a dowry so his daughters could be married nor could he afford to support them. The only other options at the time for him was to sell one in to slavery or prostitution. Nicholas wanted to help but wanted to do so secretly, so he threw a bag of money for the dowry in their window in the middle. He repeated this 2 more times for each of the other daughters. He did other similar acts and the word of his deeds began to spread. He sailed to Jerusalem where he tended to sick sailors and villagers. He was arrested and tortured for 8 year, for harboring Christians who were rebelling against religious persecution. There are other stories about him punching a fellow council member for heresy, saving people from execution and forgiving people who were guilty of various crimes. As stories have been passed through not only geographic locations but generations so stories vary and are embellished. Copycats began gifting to others as well.
In the US there is a lot of blurring of St. Nicholas Day into Christmas, and his appearance has changed thanks to Clement C Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas, Coca Cola advertising and movies. Different countries still have different traditions around St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. Some feast. Some get a visit from St. Nick and possibly a companion. There may be parades with costumes. Week long markets are open. In Canada there are superstitions about certain activities that may be bad like using scissors is banned and it’s bad luck to incur debt or refuse anyone in need of help.
St. Nicholas has many companions depending on the locale. There may be angels to reward good children and devils to punish the bad. Black Peter/Zwarte Piet a fun loving mischievous character who is in blackface (although some countries are straying away from this). He usually passes out fruit while St. Nicholas passes out the treats and sweets. Pére Fouettard is an evil butcher whose punishment for luring children into his shop, is to follow St. Nicholas each year. Schmutzli a brown hooded creature who was said to beat or gobble up naughty kids.
My absolute favorite is Krampus. Krampus is covered in fur, has horns and a long red tongue. He takes naughty children and may put them in a sack and beat them. He sometimes appears in chains and under St. Nicholas’ control but some places have festivals like in Austria where there are multiple Krampuses who chase down onlookers and beat them with bunches of sticks sometimes leaving marks. Regardless you don’t want to get on that naughty list.
There are two movies that I watch around this time each year. The first is a heartwarming tale (1999) Santa and Pete. Although they use “Santa”, this story has more of a feel of some of the taimer St. Nicholas traditions. This stars Hume Cronyn (Cocoon) and James Earl Jones and Tempestt Bledsoe (Cosby Show). A grandfather shares a story with his grandson that has been passed down through generations. It follows St. Nicholas as they move to the New World. It is definitely a cute family film.
The second movie is NOT for all ages. I don’t normally like horror in my Christmas movies but this is an exception. Krampus (2015) may take place on Christmas but obviously has more of the lore associated with St. Nicholas Day. It follows a family who has been drifting apart. They now gather for the holidays. The son writes a letter to Santa but it is answered by someone (or something) else instead. A mysterious storm rolls in and family members start disappearing. This is a fun, horror- comedy with Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), Allison Tolman (Fargo), and the late Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men).
May you all get candy and treats in your shoes and not be beaten with switches!
Jennifer Bollnow is a TVaholic with no possibility or desire to rehab. She met Melanie when they worked together on the former Voice of TV website. She especially loves sci-fi, fantasy, Christmas movies and anything with Patrick Swayze. She loves helping people find their new favorite series. Her current obsessions is Outlander. This is her first guest article and we hope that there will be more to come!