Saint Nicholas’ legend vs Santa Claus…


A medieval fresco depicting St Nicholas from t...

A medieval fresco depicting St Nicholas from the Boyana Church, near Sofia, Bulgaria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sinterklaas or Nikolaus, San Nicola etc. in European countries is based on the legendary figure of St Nicholas.

Born in 271 AD to a rich Greek family in Asia Minor in in the city of Patara (Lycia et Pamphylia), he was very religious from an early age. His parents died by an epidemic while Nicholas was still very young and he was raised by his uncle (also named Nicholas), the bishop of Patara. ” He tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader and later ordained him a presbyter (priest).“(wikipedia) Nicholas decided to distribute his wealth to the poor and become a priest. Later he became the Arch Bishop of Myra, a place near the city of Anatolia in Turkey.

He had the reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him and became the model for Santa Claus (celebrated on 24th or 25th December), whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas in turn comes from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”.

The fame of St Nicholas’ good deeds began to spread across the Mediterranean and he became known as a patron saint of children, sailors, merchants, archors, travellers and of the city of Amsterdam. Therefore this figure has a special meaning to the Dutch and to the children.

Legends about St Nicholas

There are many legends about St Nicholas. One tells how a terrible famine struck the island and a malicious butcher lured three little children to his house, killed them and placed their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Saint Nicholas, visiting the region to care for the hungry, saw through this horrible crime and resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers. In another version (from the 11th Century), the butcher’s victims were three clerks who wished to stay the night. The man murdered them and intended to turn them into meat pies. Saint Nicholas saw through this and brought the men back to life. – These kind of legends seem to have originated some of the well known helpers of St Nicholas in many European countries.

The legends with the most likely historical basis are those with St Nicholas being the helper or being the secret benefactor:

Nicholas heard about a man who had lost all his money. He had three daughters who were old enough to get married but had no dowry.

This family was so poor they had nothing left to eat. The daughters were going to be sold as slaves because they couldn’t live at home any longer. They were very sad. They wouldn’t be able to have families of their own. And they would have to be slaves—no longer able to decide where they would live or what they would do.

The night before the oldest daughter was to be sold, she washed her stockings and put them in front of the fire to dry. Then all of them went to sleep—the father and the three daughters.

In the morning the daughter saw a lump in her stocking. Reaching in, she found a small, heavy bag. It had gold inside! Enough to provide food for the family and money for her dowry. Oh, how happy they were!

The next morning, another bag with gold was found. Imagine! Two of the daughters would now be saved. Such joy!

And the next night, the father planned to stay awake to find out who was helping his daughters. He dozed off, but heard a small “clink” as another bag landed in the room. Quickly he jumped up and ran out the door. Who did he catch ducking around the corner? – Nicholas, the young man who lived with his uncle. “Nicholas, it is you! Thank you for helping us—I hardly know what to say!” Nicholas said, “Please, do not thank me—thank God that your prayers have been answered. Do not tell others about me.”

Nicholas continued helping people. He always tried to help secretly. He didn’t want any attention or thanks. Years passed and he was chosen to be a bishop. Bishops look after their people as shepherds look after their sheep. And that is what Nicholas did. When there wasn’t any food, he found wheat; so no one went hungry. He always helped people in trouble. All his life Nicholas showed people how to love God and care for each other.

Everyone loved Nicholas. After he died, they told stories of the good and kind things Nicholas had done. Sailors took these stories about Nicholas everywhere they went. Some of the stories were about his special care for children—helping and protecting them when danger threatened. And so more and more people learned about good, kind Nicholas. They wanted to be like him. He is an example of how we should live. And that is why he became a saint. (Carol Myers)


How to keep it simple during the festive season…


Many international families use to travel from one family to the other, visit extended family and friends in very short time, trying to “do it right” – or they choose to stay and have family visiting. Especially during this time of the year, cultures tend to collide: everyone wants to celebrate the way he or she was used to, which can lead to discussions among partners already. If you then add extended family to the plate, it becomes a very stressful and not really peaceful time of the year.

Every year, my husband and I discuss about how to celebrate all the festivities, and although we adapted some traditions, skipped some others, there are some basic aspects we don’t want to miss. This is supposed to be a contemplative time of the year, where we count our blessings.

Here are some tips on how to reduce stress during these days and to keep everything simple(r):

1 Divide the tasks

If you have guests at Christmas you probably tend to feel responsible that everything is perfect and end up doing it all by yourself?

If you don’t want to end up exhausted after a few days, plan the busiest days in advance by dividing the tasks. Involve your family and guests, by assigning tasks you know they are able to do. Keep them busy.  One can help in the kitchen, the next one can load/unload the dishwasher, set the table, others can play with the kids or go for a walk…

And if you are the guest: offer your help to the host by asking to do tasks you like and are able to do – and don’t take “no” for an answer… 

2 Don’t bother about what others (could) expect from you

This is in addition to point one. If you have the impression that others expect more from you, take one step back and let them explain what they mean before getting anxious.

It’s often a matter of perception and expectation. When others expect more and different than we want or can do, it is their problem, not ours.
If you still hear the “perfectionist-voice” humming in your head, ask yourself if this is your voice or maybe the one of your mother, friend etc. talking…  If it happens to be your voice, then ask yourself if it is really more important than spending time with your children, partner, extended family. If not: drop it. If it is more important: ask for help.
And if is still not exactly how you imagined it to be: nobody will notice but you… And what you did surely is enough.

3 Relax

There is nothing more annoying than a host running around all the time, tidying up and not being able to sit down and relax. If you are the host, plan quiet moments where you enjoy your family and friends. And if you are visiting, give the host the opportunity to rest, sit down and have a chat. Ask open questions to engage in conversations (i.e. all questions that can not be answered by a simple “yes” or “no”). – By helping with the tasks, like mentioned in 1, you can contribute to a more relaxed and festive atmosphere. 

4 Get some me-time

Every family has her own routines and habits. If a few families gather together, after a few days – sometimes even after a few hours – there can be some tensions… It is very important to take one step back every now and then and get some me-time. Twenty minutes can be enough, maybe you need an hour. Long walks or other kind of outings for small groups of like-minded persons in the group can be very beneficial. Even taking a longer shower in the morning can help to feel like a little personal spa.

5 Keep it simple

You don’t have to be better than last year, the year before or someone else in the family. It’s not a competition and perfection is an illusion. You don’t have to prove to anybody that you’re a good cook, mother/father, wife/husband, daughter, friend etc. If you’re the host, you’re entitled to set the rules. Lower down your very own expectations and instead of getting stressed beforehand, organize some help, keep the menus simple(r) – or delegate part of them! – and don’t feel responsible for everything. And if you are the guest: try to be proactive and help the host. – In the end, what we all want is to spend a peaceful and relaxing holiday season.


Take 20 minutes of your very precious time to get a personalized plan on how to make this all happen for you this year!

(click on the image here below)