Leaving a pair of shoes out on December 5th may result in them being full of gifts the next day. Saint Nicholas is known for his generosity of gift giving and is the one responsible for the treats in shoes. Although the celebration of Saint Nicholas is intended to recognize his holiness, it has been almost transformed into something else. Many children just take advantage of the fact that they get candy, and they don’t have any interest in learning the history of Saint Nicholas. Santa Claus is also derived from Saint Nicholas, who has taken a lot of the real meaning of Christmas and turned it into a day focused on receiving gifts. What was once a very significant religious day has been transformed into an unavailing day with not much more importance than for fun.
Saint Nicholas was born in Lycia and had a rough childhood, yet he overcame many obstacles and eventually became the Bishop of Myra. He is remembered for how devoted he was to his religion when times were rough. Saint Nicholas’s wealthy parents passed away during his childhood, but he gave everything he owned to the poor and the only thing he really had was his faith. Saint Nicholas translates to “for victory of the people” in Greek and is considered the patron of saint sailors. The tradition on December 6th that is known today as Saint Nicholas’s Day started because medieval nuns would secretly deliver baskets of clothes and food to those in need and because all the sailors would go to church on December 6th to partake in church services to celebrate their favorite saint. The day December 6th has stuck ever since.
Although he is most celebrated among Catholic and Orthodox Christians and Anglican and Lutheran churches in Europe, Saint Nicholas has spread to other parts of the world. On the night of December 5th, those who believe in Saint Nicholas (generally children) leave a pair of shoes out and on December 6th they find money, sweet treats, or other gifts from Saint Nicholas. Europeans tend to believe in this tradition more than Americans, but there are still Americans that partake in the event. Santa Claus, who is more commonly heard of in the United States, originated from Saint Nicholas.
Santa Claus’s name came from the Dutch word Sinterklaas, and Saint Nicholas apparently rode over houses on a horse in the Netherlands; parts of traditions throughout many countries ended up combining to create Santa Claus. Santa Claus is known for delivering presents to children under a tree and in a stocking if they have been good all year, and that is very similar to Saint Nicholas’s Day, but usually the gifts given by Saint Nicholas are smaller than the ones given by Santa Claus. Even if some of the true meaning of Saint Nicholas’s Day and Christmas have been lost, at least children have motivation to behave well all year long or else they won’t receive any gifts.
The tradition of Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus are very similar to the tradition of the lottery in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. They both originated a long time ago, and they actually meant something important to people when the tradition started. However, over time, the traditions lost a lot of they’re meaning, and the majority of people that participate in them don’t actually believe in the origin of it. The lottery was probably started for entertainment purposes, but at the time the story took place, nobody seemed to really get that much entertainment from it.
There was mostly just a lot of conflict and uneasiness surrounding the event, but since it always been done, the people feared that other things would not be done if the lottery wasn’t done, such as fall crops growing. Saint Nicholas’s Day and Christmas were started in order to celebrate religion, not to receive gifts. Many children are taught that Saint Nicholas will bring them candy and Santa Claus will bring them gifts before they are even aware of the importance of Saint Nicholas or Jesus.
Saint Nicholas was known for his largesse, and it’s too bad that not many people care as much about his background as what they receive out of the holiday. It seems very selfish of society to take advantage of what once were sacred holidays to celebrate renowned religious leaders and use it to receive gifts. It does seem fun to give and receive gifts to and from loved ones once a year, but it’s too bad that it has to be associated with noted people that should be recognized simply for what they’ve done.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 6 October 2016
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