Croeso i Saint Nicholas' Day!
St Nicholas, inspiration for the modern Santa Claus, was a third century catholic saint famed for his generosity and his many miracles. In many parts of the world, this day ( the date of his death) was more traditionally a time for giving small gifts, with actual Christmas Day then the focus of the celebration of the nativity. Many and fascinating are the stories of his miraculous deeds with a constant theme of gift giving ( money, golden balls etc ) and the resurrection of the dead, in particular murdered children. In many parts of the world special rites and observances were practiced with small boys dressing as the bishop and going from house to house collecting, traditionally for the poor, but increasingly for themselves. Shoes and stockings were left out overnight in the expectation that they would be filled with gifts by morning. The caviat of 'naughty or nice' seems to have been associated with the reception of gifts for centuries. The children's behaviour was 'judged' and those found wanting would discover a twig or lump of coal under their pillow or in their shoe rather than a present. In some cases, it was not Saint Nicholas who would visit the home, but a more sinister character who would perhaps leave a rod for the parents to beat badly behaved children. This figure would even snatch children away if necessary! Unsurprisingly, this 'no holes barred' approach has been mitigated in modern times, children likely to get a present, however unexemplary their behaviour.