An important date in the Christmas Calendar for many of our readers is 6th December — St. Nicholas’ Day. This patron saint is known under many different guises, Agios Nicolaos in Greece, Samichlaus in Swiss German, Svyatoy Nikolay in Russia and Sinterklaas in Dutch.
The story goes that Saint Nicholas was a bishop from Myra (now Demre in Turkey) in the 4th Century. According to the legend he gave all his riches to the poor and became known for his generosity and kindness, and now there are many traditions observed in his name across the world.
Recognised as the patron saint of children, the sea, the navy, Russia and Fribourg among others. From the 19th Century he took on the form of the American Santa Claus. This is after the Dutch took their traditions for Sinterklaas over to America and he became known as the infamous Santa Claus and to the Brits, Father Christmas; the patron of Christmas, synonymous with gift giving.
Here in Switzerland, Samichlaus is known for giving out gifts of sweets, chocolates and nuts. Parades are held in Fribourg, where St Nicholas is the patron saint and there is the beautiful St-Nicholas Cathedral. Here is a link to past celebrations of St Nicholas in Fribourg here in Switzerland.
Often small and more family focussed than Christmas Day itself, there are many traditions in every country celebrating. For the Dutch children, the more important day is 5th December — St Nicholas Eve; when Sinterklaas brings them their presents. Children leave a shoe or boot by the fireplace or somewhere in the home, hoping for Sinterklaas to pay a visit during the night with sweets and small presents.
In Italy, San Niccolo is know as the patron of Bari city. In May in Bari, they host a huge religious festival commemorating the bringing of his remains to Bari from Myra. Traditionally he leaves nuts, oranges and small gifts for the children.
Agios Nikolaos in Greece is known as the patron or protector Saint of the Sea and Navy. Santa Claus however, who visits on the 25th is a different Saint, called Agios Vassileios.
We have many communities living here in our part of Switzerland, check out some of the associations to connect or discover any events happening in the future. https://genevagreeks.ch/ https://nvg.ch/over-ons
Read more about St. Nicholas traditions from around the world here.
Living in Nyon wish you all a very happy St Nicholas Day. We hope he is kind to you and leaves you lots of gifts.