Whether you will say St. Nicholas, Mikuláš or Sinterklaas, every child in Europe will understand who do you mean. All children will immediately imagine boots full of sweets from the night of 5th December. Through whole year kids and adults wait just for this evening of hapiness and grace, when everybody gift each other.
Saint Nicholas belongs between most favourite saints. Despite his popularity we know about his life just a little. He was born sometime around the year 270 on southern coast of Asia Minor, probably in Patara. Since his youth he has become renowned for his charity, which had even grown up when he became a bishop in Myra (now Dembri in southern Turkey).
His reputation of bishop meant that he became a multiple saint patron. As for the guardian is considered by Russians, many towns also bear his name, for example St. Nicholas in England, Liptovský or Borský Mikuláš in Slovakia. St. Nicholas was through legends also a patron of sailors, merchants, owners of back-ups, pharmacists and perfumers.
Single girls chose him as their intercessor on the basis of the best known story of his life. It´s said that one rich man had three daughters. When he became poor and his family had nothing to put into the mouth, he decided to do prostitues of his daughters. Saint Nicholas had heard it, wrapped in a piece of gold and threw it into the man´s house. He repeated it three times, until was that much of money that all three girls could honestly marry.
In the biography of St. Nicholas plays a significant role number three. Three were daughters of rich man, three were bags of gold, three were also seamen who he rescued from sea storm at the Turkish coast, three were resurrected youths and three were men wrongly sentenced to death. These good deeds he did before his death, as well as after it.
St. Nicholas died at an advanced age and was buried in Myra church, where were his remains until 1087. When Muslims invaded Myra, Nicholas´s remains were transferred to the Italian port town of Bari, where were many Greek immigrants. There they built a new church dedicated to Saint Nicholas. His tomb in Bari flows frangrance called myrrh, which explains his patronage over perfumers and numbers of pilgrims coming to his grave. Thanks to devotion of this his saint spread beyond the western world.
From the legend of three poor girls is probably derived folk in some countries to gift each other on the day of this saint with small gifts. Nicholas´s tradition draws also from his patrociniums of children. Habit to gift was created in the Netherlands, continued to Europe and from there spread to North America, where immigrants joined to him Nordic folk stories about wizard who punishes bad children and rewards good children with sweets. Into the red & white coat was dressed in the context of pre-Christmas advertising campaign by Coca-Cola. Over time, Nicholas (in English Santa Claus) became more or less an advertising piece that has nothing to do with real saint from Myra.
Nicholas was popular name in 12th century, but today is used, too. It was turned into derivatives like Colin, Nicolson, Nixon, Nikola, Nikolai, Nicola, Nicolette and others. Nicholas was also popular in Middle Ages drama for him were dedicated many churches, mostly in Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches.
And what did you get for St. Nicholas?