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Monday, December 6, 2010

San Nicola - Saint Nicholas Day


Today is the Saints Day for Nicholas, December 6th not only a special day for all the Nicholas’s and Nicola’s in Italy where Saints Days are celebrated by the namesakes, but also today for many other children in Italy this day is seen as the beginning of the Christmas festivities when they receive a present from San Nicola.
This day is celebrated in many different parts of the world, several countries within Europe including Italy, as the day when one of the most popular saints in history died in AD 354.  There are many stories circulating about his life, but true or not there is certainly no doubt that this is the Saint that inspired the much loved character Father Christmas or Babbo Natale as he is known in Italy.
Saint Nicholas (270–6 December 346) was born into a wealthy Greek family and at a young age he devoted his life both to God and to assisting those in need. He grew up in a Greek speaking colony of the Roman Empire Myra, now part of Turkey, where he became a Bishop of the city. When he died his bones were placed in the cathedral of Myra which became a popular pilgrimage destination until 1087 when the Turks conquered the city and sailors from Bari rescued the remains and took them to rest in their own city.
He was well known for his generosity and acts of kindness towards others, especially children, according to Wikipedia he is the patron saint to a long list of different groups of people around the world. Children, sailors, fishermen, merchants, broadcasters, the falsely accused, prostitutes, repentant thieves, pharmacists,archers and pawnbrokers, what an interesting and varied selection!
The major celebrations in Italy for St. Nicholas (San Nicola) take place in Bari,Puglia where he is believed to be buried and is the patron of the city. Similar celebrations and traditions are observed in Sassari, on the island of Sardinia where he is also a patron saint of the city. One of the traditions carried out here is the distribution of gifts to young brides to be whose parents cannot afford to help them. This stems from the legend that Saint Nicholas once helped a man by providing dowries for his three daughters, so they could find husbands, rather than being sold into prostitution.  In Trieste, St. Nicholas (San Nicolò) is celebrated with gifts given to children on the morning of 6 December and with a fair called Fiera di San Nicolo during the first weeks of December.

There has been an interesting development since Saint Nicholas Day 2009 as it has been proposed that his bones are returned to Turkey.
On 28 December 2009, the Turkish Government announced that it would be formally requesting the return of San Nicola’s bones to Turkey from the Italian government. Turkish authorities have cited the fact that Saint Nicolas himself wanted to be buried at his birthplace. They also state that his remains were illegally removed from Turkey.  Apparently the town of Demre where the ancient town of Myra, once was has plans to build a museum which once constructed will exhibit relics of ancient civilisations. There is no schedule for these plans yet as far as my research found out, but the Turkish minister stated last year ‘that once built they would naturally ask for the remains of Babbo Natale to be returned from Italy’.

 Buon San Nicola                    

Italian Male Variations of Nicholas: Niccolò, Nico, Nicola, Nicolò, Nicolas  
Italian Female Variations of Nicola: Nicoletta, Nicla, Nicole, Nicolina
I researched the facts quoted in this post with thanks to Wikipedia
In case you are interested here is the link to the post I wrote for St Nicholas on December 6th last year   St Nicholas Day Post for 2009

Christmas is coming to Marta the festive lights have gone up and many of the shop windows are seasonally decorated.

This is one of my favourites, unfortunately I was unable to get rid of the reflection of the car in any of the shots I took of this shop window.


  1. It always amazes me that you know things about Italian culture that I don't know. LOL!

  2. I love the name Babbo Natale and that he loved god and served others. Really a great lesson for us in this overly commercialized season. Great post Linda. ♥O

  3. In y native Netherlands St. Niklas Day, or Sinta Klaas as he is known to us, it's in fact the more important feast for the children. Christmas is a religious celebration to us.

  4. Interesting post with lots of information I did not know. Well done Lindy. Diane

  5. That's so interesting, I had no idea that he was the patron saint of an Italian city...even less that he was buried in Italy. Goes to show, you never stop learning - thanks for putting this together.

    Your comment the other day did make me smile. As I said, I absolutely love Christmas time, but it also makes me sad to see how extremely commercial it is nowadays... Anyway, back to the enjoyable part: baking biscuits next weekend :-)

    Have a lovely week, Love from (frrrreeezing) London xo

  6. I'd completely forgotten it was San Nicola Day! Thanks for the reminder and a lovely, informative post.

  7. Lovely post! I had NO idea about this and it's really good to know, actually! St. Nick is a very important figure...

    Thanks for sharing and as we get closer to Christmas-- I'm wishing you a very Merry one!

    Hugs, Leesa

  8. We celebrate St Nickolas too on the 6th of December!Nickolas name is very popular here in Greece! (Nikos)
    We believe St Nickolas is the saint who protects the sailors! Have a great week!

  9. Loved this post - went to the Wikipedia link to see the painting of Saint Nicholas - yep, there's Santa.

  10. You're right Lindy Saint Nicholas is supposed to bring gifts to children from Puglia and Southern Italy, as well as to those from Trentino Alto Adige
    Awaiting your post about Santa Lucia now... :-)

  11. Such an interesting post, Lindy. :-) That's very interesting that Turkey wants his remains moved back. I had no idea. :-) That shop window is lovely - and the car in the reflection just makes it REAL. :-)

  12. Great post Linda and thank you for being #1! It is so interesting how we have the same thing in different parts of the world, but it is called something else..lol! (espresso pot) xo

  13. Here in Italy we never agree between us: e.g. here in Venice december 8 is seen as the beginning of the Christmas festivities (Immacolata Concezione), and in Milan and Lombardia is december 7 (Sant'Ambrogio).

    During last century also Santa Lucia (december 13) was very popular in northern Italy: in Trentino, but not only there, she gave presents to children instead of Santa Claus.

  14. A great post Linda .. so interesting to me , love learning about celebrations. Funny that we both did posts. Pleased you like my photo .. I lived in Holland when my dad was in the Royal Air Force .. . So different to the UK.

  15. This photo is lovely! In Russia, Saint Nicholas is the one of the most important saints.

  16. When I was a kid, all I know is Sinterklaas. And When I grown up, I know about the Saint Nicholas and the Santa Clause.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  17. Heiko - It is interesting that December 6th is still of such importance in The Netherlands. Commercialism has spoilt the true meaning of Christmas in so many ways.

    Diane - I am glad you found it interesting and informative.

    Welshcakes - I am pleased you enjoyed it.

    Rambling Tart - I am glad it was of interest and that you thought photo was ok like that, thanks.

  18. Dona - Oh well any day from December 6th onwards heralds the arrival of the Christmas season in Italy then. I had never heard of Santa Lucia before until today when you and another Italian blogging friend both mentioned it in comments.

    Amiko - It is a pleasure, glad you found the post interesting.

  19. What a wonderful history. My mother is German and I always received gifts in my shoes on December 6th. I asked the Italians if children do this also, bu they said January 6th (Bufana) is more common. I never thought to seek out the history of St. Nicolas though. This is wonderful!


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