For the giveaway see the link at the end of the post.
The tradition of Saint Nicholas Day, usually on 6 December (19 December in most Orthodox countries), is a festival for children in many countries in Europe related to surviving legends of the saint, and particularly his reputation as a bringer of gifts. The American Santa Claus, as well as the British Father Christmas, derive from these legends. “Santa Claus” is itself derived in part from the Dutch Sinterklaas.
Saint Nicholas also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century saint and Greek Bishop of Myra (Demre, part of modern-day Turkey) in Lycia. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints. In 1087, part of the relics (about half of the bones) were furtively transferred to Bari, in southeastern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nikolaos of Bari. The remaining bones were taken to Venice in 1100. His feast day is 6 December
The historical Saint Nicholas is commemorated and revered among Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox Christians. In addition, some Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches have been named in honor Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, pawnbrokers and students in various countries in the Balkans and Eastern Europe (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia), as well as in parts of Western Europe (Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Portugal). He is also the patron saint of Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Barranquilla, Bari, Burgas, Beit Jala, Fribourg, Huguenots, Kozani, Liverpool, Paternopoli, Sassari, Siggiewi, and Lorraine. He was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari.
Nicholas was born a Greek in Asia Minor during the third century in the city of Patara (Lycia et Pamphylia), which was a port on the Mediterranean Sea, and lived in Myra, Lycia (part of modern-day Demre, Turkey), at a time when the region was Greek in its heritage, culture, and outlook and politically part of the Roman diocese of Asia. He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents. He was very religious from an early age and according to legend, Nicholas was said to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara. He tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader, and later ordained him a presbyter (priest).
Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Nice
In his most famous exploit, a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment, would have to become prostitutes. Hearing of the poor man’s plight, Nicholas decided to help him, but being too modest to help the man in public (or to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to his house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man’s house.
One version has him throwing one purse for three consecutive nights. Another has him throw the purses over a period of three years, each time the night before one of the daughters comes of age. Invariably, the third time the father lies in wait, trying to discover the identity of their benefactor. In one version the father confronts the saint, only to have Saint Nicholas say it is not him he should thank, but God alone. In another version, Nicholas learns of the poor man’s plan and drops the third bag down the chimney instead; a variant holds that the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking. Renditions of St Nicholas often show him holding 3 gold balls, the balls represent the dowries he provided.
While feasts of Saint Nicholas are not observed nationally, cities with strong German influences like Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis celebrate St. Nick’s Day on a scale similar to the German custom. As in other countries, many people in the United States celebrate a separate St Nicholas Day by putting their shoes outside their bedroom doors or hanging an empty stocking by the fireplace on the evening of 5 December. St Nicholas then comes during the night. On the morning of 6 December, those people will find their shoes/stockings filled with gifts and sugary treats. Widespread adoption of the tradition has spread among the German, Polish, Belgian and Dutch communities throughout the United States.
Most of us now think of St Nicholas on Dec 24 thanks to the famous poem.
and this famous 1881 Illustration by Thomas Nast.
So to celebrate St Nicholas Day I made a snowflake (click to enlarge)
I will add this one to the many other snowflakes in the giveaway. Enter here Snowflake Giveaway