Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Notes on the Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra.

Widely celebrated on this date, the Feast of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, is one of my favorite days of the church year, in part because of the many wonderful traditions associated with this feast. One such tradition is the enthronement in some English cathedrals of boy bishops like the young prelate seen above; typically chosen from among the ranks of the cathedral choristers, the boy bishops traditionally took office on St. Nicholas' Day, retaining their honorary prelacies until the Feast of the Holy Innocents three days after Christmas. For more on boy bishops, consult this post from two years ago.

Here is some video footage of another annual tradition involving St. Nicholas, this one from the Netherlands. As seen above, Sinterklaas annually arrives (purportedly from Spain, and preferably by boat) in mid-November to inaugurate several weeks of festivites leading to the exchange of gifts on the eve of St. Nicholas' Day. I offer this video chiefly for the edification of my sister Liz, who was once on hand in Amsterdam to greet Sinterklaas on his arrival in the city.

Here's one more video from Amsterdam, showing Sinterklaas on parade through the city, accompanied by his traditional - and nowadays quite controversial - assistant Zwarte Piet. My sister has told me that at the time of Sinterklaas' arrival one finds hordes of Zwarte Pieten in the streets giving away homemade cookies - a fine act of generosity and an acknowledgment of community that, for various reasons, one would be much less likely to encounter during analogous celebrations in the United States.

Finally, something from Pennsylvania: a fragment of the traditional Carpatho-Rusyn hymn O kto kto Nikolaja l'ubit, heard here at Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Harrisburg. On this Feast of Saint Nicholas of Myra, celebrated so brightly and with such great variety by Christians throughout the world, I pray that the holy Bishop Nicholas may intercede for us before Christ our God for the good of all and for the salvation of our souls. AMDG.


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