On December 19th Ukraine celebrates 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 kindness 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. But the most important is that he was not doing it to show off, 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. He was chosen by local residents as their bishop afterward.
After the bishop’s death miracles began to happen in the city: the patients who came to the tomb were healed, an image of Nicholas protected people during their travels and in bad moments of their lives. Nicholas is considered to be the closest to God among all saints, so-called mediator between God and people.
Nowadays, St. Nicholas Day is a happy holiday for children. Kids write letters with their wishes on the eve of the holiday and mail them out or place on windows. A day before the holiday children recall all their good and bad deeds, so they know what they can expect. Kind and obedient children are sure to find a gift under a pillow, and naughty ones - a stick.
Some countries believe that Saint Nicholas does not come alone to children, but with his helpers. They are two angels, who shall inform the patron of the obedient children, and two devils, who inform St. Nicholas about all kids’ tricks.
In modern times, there is a good tradition: it is the day when people take care of orphans and children from poor families by donating 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 Saint himself regularly shared with those in need.