December 19, Orthodox Christians celebrate St. Nicholas day (Nicola of winter). This holiday is especially loved by children, because St. Nicholas is the patron Saint of children, sailors and merchants, and it is believed that on this day, he brings gifts to children.

St. Nicholas (Nicholas, Nicholas) was Archbishop of Lycia. He was rich and helped poor people. One of the most famous legends associated with St. Nicholas, says that one poor man had three daughters. He was so poor that he could not provide them with dowries, and, therefore, and marry.

Nicholas (at that time he was not yet a Bishop) found out about it and decided to use his father's inheritance to help girls. Three nights in a row he threw himself into the room where the sisters slept, a piece of gold (one version - through the window, the other - through the chimney).

So every daughter of a poor man received a dowry. But they did not know to whom they owe their dowry, because Nicholas chose to remain anonymous. Nikolay continued to help poor townspeople, imperceptibly bringing warm clothes and toys to their children and medicines to sick people.

In memory of this children decided to give gifts   - they are put under a pillow or (in Catholic countries) in a slipper standing by the bed, or a sock hanging over a fireplace). It is believed that St. Nicholas brings gifts only to obedient children, and disobediently gets knitted rod or coal. He has a book in which the names of children are written, worthy or unworthy of a gift. But, of course, in fact gifts are received by everyone.

This tradition originated in medieval Germany, where parents in anticipation of the holiday gave the children winter wear (Catholics celebrate St. Nicholas day on December 6, at the beginning of winter). Over time, the gifts are to give secretly, so that children believed that they were brought by St. Nicholas, and the clothes took treats, toys, school supplies, etc. Toys put in the stocking hanging by the fireplace, or in a Shoe, standing by the bed.

In Catholic countries, children believe that St. Nicholas comes with a donkey, so put it next to the shoes straw or carrots for the little helper. It is the Holy Nicholas became the prototype of Santa Claus   and other similar characters in the cultures of different countries and peoples.

Some countries believe that St. Nicholas comes not alone, but with assistants. So, in the Czech Republic believe that accompany the Holy devil and an angel. Each of them has a book in which good and bad deeds committed by each child are recorded. Based on these records, St. Nicholas decides whether the child is worthy to receive a gift this year.

And the Dutch children believe that St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas ) arrives in Rotterdam by ship from distant and warm Spain and enters the city on horseback, accompanied by "Black Pit   "(Assistants-nigrit), and from there sent to deliver gifts throughout the country. By the way, it was the Dutch Sinterklaas in North America that gradually transformed into Santa Claus.

Over time, children in different countries began write letters to St.. they listed the good deeds done for the year, asked for forgiveness for bad deeds and described what gift I want on the day of St. Nicholas.

Ukraine has its own traditions associated with this day. Earlier in the villages, the senior owners were going to cook wheat beer, and after that they happily ridden with songs on the sleigh across the village. In Kharkov, three-day Christmas-days were celebrated, which, like Christmas, were cooked with kutya and Uzvar. that next year rye and fruits were born. Throughout Ukraine, dinners were organized in honor of Nicholas the Miracle-Worker with the preparation of ritual beer and honey. And on Podillia on St. Nicholas day they waited for a "do-it-yourself": the man who first entered the house promised wealth and happiness throughout the year.

St. Nicholas day — one of the most revered Christian holidays. This Christmas day post is weakened, and the faithful are allowed to eat fish. In memory of the goodness, mercy and love, who all his life showed Saint Nicholas, this holiday often times various charity events.