December 6 is St. Nicholas Day, celebrated in Europe, and many places around the world by people of European heritage, including some Canadians. For many, the tradition of gift giving that is usually associated with Christmas Day, or perhaps Christmas Eve, in North America, is instead part of St. Nicholas Day. In many places children go to bed with the expectation that they will wake up to gifts from St. Nicholas, perhaps even money or treats placed in their shoes, left out for him the night before.
Nicholas lived in the 3rd and 4th Centuries CE (AD). He lived in what is now known as Turkey, but what was then a Greek area of the Roman Empire. What is factual about his life, and what is is myth, isn’t certain. Nicholas was associated with generosity and charity, especially for the poor and for children.
Nicholas became a Bishop in the early Christian Church. He was persecuted and imprisoned by the Roman Emperor, and after he died was eventually identified as a Saint. In the years since his legend has grown, and morphed into various forms. In modern times the figure of St. Nicholas has grown to be known by various guises and names, including Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, and Santa Claus.
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