On December 19 Ukraine marks St. Nicholas Day - the patron of children and travelers.
Saint Nicholas (or Nikolaos), which is now considered to be a folklore character, was a Byzantine bishop, famous for his love to children and the poor. He carried out his service in the ancient Lycia, (this area is located near the modern Turkish town of Demre).
There are a lot of legends about Nikolaos’ good deeds. He brought toys and warm clothes to children and medicines to the sick ones. But the most important is that he was not doing it for fame, but secretly, with all his heart. Once in the middle of the night people wanted to track the person who was helping everybody and were surprised to find out that it was young Nicholas. Local residents chose him as their bishop afterwards.
After bishop’s death miracles began to happen in the city: the patients who came to the tomb were healed, and the image of Nicholas defended people in distant travels and tribulations of life. Nicholas is considered the closest to God among the saints, the mediator between God and people.
St. Nicholas Day is a welcome treat for the children. Kids write letters to him on the eve of the holiday with the wishes and throw them in a mailbox or place them on the window, primarily asking good health for them and their parents. A day before the holiday children recall all good and bad deeds and weigh which of them they have more. Friendly and obedient kids are sure to find a gift under the pillow, and naughty - rod.
Some countries believe that Saint Nicholas does not come alone to the children, but with the accompanying retinue. It consists of two angels, who shall inform the patron of the obedient children, and two devils, who inform St. Nicholas about all the kids’ antics.
In modern times, there is a good tradition: it is the day of St. Nicholas when people take care of orphans and disadvantaged children, giving them gifts.
It is believed that St. Nicholas holiday is the last day of the year when you can pay back your debts, because the miracle worker himself regularly shared with those in need.