According to Hone’s Every Day Book (1827), today is St. Nicholas Day. This is, apparently, the anniversary of his death in 343.
Hone reports that
He is in the almanacs, and church of England calendar. He is a patron or titular saint of virgins, boys, sailors, and the worshipful company of parish clerks of the city of London (an interesting collection). Mr. Audley (of Audley’s Companion to the Almanac) briefly observes of him, that he was remarkable in his infancy for piety, an dthe knowledge of the scriptures; that he was made bishop of Myra, in Lycia, by Constantine the Great, and the ‘he was present in the council of Nice, where it is aid that he gave Arius a box on the ear.’
One of the stories of St. Nicholas’s virtue concerns him resurrecting two boys who had been killed and cut into pieces with the intention of selling them for pickled pork. (Ick) Nicholas, then the bishop of Myra, had a vision of these proceedings and went to the innkeeper who had salted the boys. Once the innkeeper confessed, asked for forgiveness and “supplicated restoration of life to the children, “the pickled pieces reunited, and the reanimated youths stepped from the brine-tub and threw themselves at the feet of St. Nicholas.
This, and other tales of virtue, caused his festival day to involve choosing a choir boy to “maintain the state and authority of a bishop.” This show of the “Boy Bishop” was abrogated by Henry VIII by proclamation but revived in the reign of Mary “with other Romish ceremonials.”
Hone leaves December 6 with a poem entitled Winter.
Hoary, and dim, and bare, and shivering.
Like a poor almsman comes the aged Year,
With kind “God save you all, good gentlefolks!”
Heap on fresh fuel, make a blazing fire,
Bring out the cup of kindness, spread the board,
And gladden Winter with our cheerfulness!
Wassail! — to you, and yours, and all! — All health!
And so say we all.
Fascinating and somewhat bizarre post, Myretta! Appropriate as St. Nicholas Day was considered the start of the Christmas Season during the Regency.
In Germany children get small presents on St. Nicholas Day. 🙂 Traditionally, there are two ways this gift-giving can happen:
1) St. Nicholas visits you on the evening of 5 December. He knocks on your door and, if you’ve been good, leaves a bag with presents (chocolate, nuts, tangerines, small toys).
2) Children put their boots outside the door during the night, and, if they’ve been good, find it filled with small presents on the morning of 6 December.
If you’ve been bad, you’ll either don’t get any presents or you’ll get punished by St. Nicholas’s companion Knecht Ruprecht.