Nikolaos of Myra, the saint whose life and legacy is celebrated on December 6th in Germany, is also known far beyond the borders of Germany. In this article we will show you some St. Nicholas Day customs and traditions from around the world and how to decorate your home appropriately.
The German traditions surrounding St. Nicholas Day mostly stem from northern or eastern France. A basilica was built in honour of St. Nicholas in the small town of Port near Nancy in Lorraine, where according to legend his skeletal remains work miracles to this day. From here, the veneration of the saint quickly spread to the Moselle and Rhine Valley and then to the whole of Germany.
As is customary in Germany, too, an empty boot is left in front of the fireplace or outside the door here on St. Nicholas Day in hopes of finding goodies from St. Nicholas the next morning. Often, a man dressed up as St. Nicholas visits the children on the eve before St. Nicholas Day.
The evening before plays an important role in France and the Netherlands, as this is when a festive dinner is held in honour of St. Nicholas. In France, it is customary to serve dishes with pork and apple on this occasion.
One of the most unusual traditions surrounding St. Nicholas stems from Italy - from Sassari, to be exact. Nicholaos of Myra was not only known for helping children in need, he was also regarded as the protector of virgins. For this reason, he is seen as the patron saint of unmarried women in Italy to this day; many of them attend a special mass on St. Nicholas Day where they turn a column seven times to help change their luck in finding a spouse.
There are many different ways to decorate your home for St. Nicholas Day. For example, just think about what St. Nicholas is called in English speaking countries. There he is called Santa Claus. So one option would be to decorate your home American style. Of course it is up to you how brightly you want to light up the neighbourhood, but one thing you simply cannot do without is a Santa Claus with his eight reindeer.
If you prefer something a little more subtle, much can be done by setting small colour accents. The combination of red, green and white symbolises the pre-Christmas period. This colour scheme can easily be used for pillows, tablecloths, vases, flower pots and other decor items in your home. You could also set up an array of figurines, candles and bowls filled with mandarins and cookies.
Or you could use this time to make things with your children. Festive table decorations out of felt, for example, which are easy to make. These can then be used as decor when you invite your friends over for a festive St. Nicholas Eve dinner with pork, apple and a delicious glass of Lorraine Riesling wine. And don’t forget to tell your friends about the Italian tradition, this will surely provide for entertainment.