The historical Saint Nicholas is revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, especially those in Russia. As the patron saint of travelers, ship captains and truck drivers often carry his icon on their journeys. Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov even installed a St. Nicholas icon on the International Space Station last month. He is also the patron saint of children and students.
While some celebrated St. Nicholas' feast day last week on December 6th, Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar will honor him on December 19th. Legend says he comes down from heaven on this day to give gifts and help ordinary people. Some still believe that he holds the key to heaven, opening the gates and meeting those who have died.
Many legends are associated with St. Nicholas, with one credited as the origin of Christmas stockings. A poor man had three daughters but was unable to afford their dowries. Under the cover of night, Nicholas visited their house and threw a bag of gold into the window. The family awoke, amazed at the surprise, and the oldest daughter was soon married.
Nicholas did the same for the second daughter, but for the third, he climbed to the roof and dropped the bag of gold down the chimney instead. Since the young girl had washed her stockings that night, and hung them over the embers to dry, she awoke to find the gold in her stocking. Ever since, children would hang their stockings on the fireplace to receive a surprise from St. Nicholas.
Ask your favorite Russian brides if they celebrate St. Nicholas Day and which legends they remember!