Many immigrant groups brought treasured traditions to Canada; Ukrainians and Dutch are among those who celebrate St. Nicholas. For Ukrainians, Christmas begins with St. Nicholas Day, December 19, when young children receive small gifts from their patron saint, Nicholas.
Parishes and schools remember Nicholas’ providing dowry money for needy young women by giving small bags of gold-colored coins to children. The children sing to welcome the saint, louder and more enthusiastically as they wait. The saint, on foot or by sleigh, comes dressed as a resplendent Byzantine bishop, accompanied by a troupe of angels. The angels help distribute goodies and small gifts.
Christmas Eve is a day of fasting, remembering Joseph and Mary’s hardship traveling to Bethlehem.
The other Ukrainian St. Nicholas Day is May 22nd; it has many names: Summer Nicholas, Nicola, Warm Nikola, Herbal Day, Nikola the Merciful. There is emphasis on Saint Nicholas taking care and helping travelers, all those who are far from home, and children.
Here are some things that should not be done on Nicholas’ May 22nd day:*
- Do not get a haircut, using scissors is banned;
- Do not refuse to help anyone who asks for help; refusing to help the needy will bring poverty and distress lasting seven years;
- Do not incur debt, if so, there will be bad financial fortune for a year.
These signs of celebration are good on May 22nd:
- If it rains there will be a good harvest;
- Morning dew is healing, walk on the grass barefoot for health and beauty;
- As Nicholas is a patron of love, newlyweds and those soon to marry should ask for protection and help from him;
- Dress up in new clothes to honor Saint Nicholas;
- On this religious holiday work at home, on the farm, in the garden, in the vegetable garden, or bring order in the house because God doesn’t like clutter.
Many Dutch immigrants came to Canada after World War II, settling especially in southern Ontario. Sinterklaas celebrations take place at many local Dutch shops and stores. In Grimsby, on the Saturday closest to December 5, Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet come to the store to visit with the children. Each child receives a little candy bag filed with chocolate, mini taai-taai, kruidnoten and pepernoten. It is a a great tradition that parents, grand-parents and children look forward to each year.
Please tell us of other St Nicholas traditions in Canada.
* Source: from Koz Times, the weekly newspaper for Quebec, Laval, Montreal, and surrounding communities.