This wasn't planned, to write another blog entry so soon... but my creative work just isn't planned, curated, or anything else but straight from the heart. I am often asked what inspires me to paint and I usually answer “life”, and today is one of those days I find incredibly inspiring.
It’s December 6th, a special day as it is Saint Nicholas. This is a holiday celebrated in some parts of the world such as Germany, France (Alsace), Poland, Ukraine, the Netherlands, and Belgium... probably missing some, so feel free to add them in the comment section! As a child, I woke up the morning of December 6th to see my shoes filled with small gifts and sweets, this was in addition to the more formal gift-giving on December 24th, when baby Jesus entered the window of our living room with a squad of angels to leave gifts under the candlelit Christmas tree. Being "technically" half Spanish and half German, I benefited from different traditions and oh did I love it! I am not religious and usually don't care much for established holidays but this time of the year has a special place in my heart and brings back lovely memories. Here is a little history that I hope you will enjoy as much as I did researching it.
There is no historical document that attests to his existence, it is believed that St. Nicholas was the bishop from the Mediterranean city port of Myra (modern-day Turkey) in the 4th century. His reputation of generosity and kindness gave rise to legends and his alleged miracles became the favorite subject for medieval artists and liturgical plays. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors stemming from 1807, when Italian sailors took his remains from Myra to the seaport of Bari. A church was built in his honor with relics kept in the Bari's 11th-century basilica of San Nicola.
After the religious revolution that took place in the 16th century, St. Nicholas was largely forgotten in many areas of Europe, although his memory was kept alive as Sinterklaas in Holland. There St. Nicholas is said to arrive on horseback on his feast day, sporting a red bishop's robe and accompanied by Zwarte Piet or Black Peter. The Dutch took the tradition to New York City in the 17th century, where Sinterklaas was transformed into the secular Santa Claus. The legend of a kind old man was married to Nordic folktales of a magician who rewarded good children with presents and punished naughty ones. The contemporary image of the traditional Santa Claus being the patron of Christmas stems from the 19th century.
In parts of Northern Europe, St-Nicholas Day has remained a time when children are given special treats such as cookies, candies, and gifts. Children leave letters for St. Nicholas and treats for his horse or donkey. On the morning of December 6th, the lucky kids find small presents in their shoes, under their pillows, or stockings.
What has St. Nicholas brought into your life? For me, although there were no physical gifts in my shoes this morning ;-), I can say that I woke up with a feeling of gratefulness to be alive and for all the blessings in my life. And although my most important person is no longer here to celebrate together, I am looking forward to creating new traditions and memories. And in my opinion, this is more than enough gifts!
History sources (edited): wikipedia.com, britannica.com, ctvnews.ca
Picture: I saw this little man on my walk today coming back from the local Christmas market and thought he was sooo adorable!
History sources (edited): wikipedia.com, britannica.com