06 December 2008

Bonne Fête de Saint Nicolas!

Saint Nicolas, mon bon patron,
apportez des p'tits bonbons,
des pastilles pour les p'tites filles,
des marrons pour les garçons.

Saint Nicolas, mon bon patron,
apportez-moi des p'tits bonbons,
des beaux jouets pour mes copains,
des belles fleurs pour la maîtresse.

Saint Nicolas, mon bon patron,
apportez-moi des macarons,
des dentelles pour les demoiselles,
des beaux rubans pour les mamans.

St. Nicholas was born in the 4th century. His parents, devout Christians, died when he was young, and their son spent the whole of his inheritance assisting the poor and needy. Eventually becoming the Bishop of Myra (in modern day Turkey), he was known for his generosity and bounty.

From StNicholasCenter.com:
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios' parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas' feast day approached, Basilios' mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios' safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king's golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.
St. Nicholas died December 6, 343 in Myra.

St. Nicholas, priez pour nous!