Just in time for gift-giving on the Feast of St. Nicholas, I’ve debuted my hit seasonal single “Ho-Ho-Ho-Hum!” This can save your reputation as a generous giver if you forgot about St. Nick’s Day, so download the tune and spread the mirth! I’ve generously included lyrics below so that you may sing along and resolve any “mondegreen” disputes:
Because festive joy this season makes /
Hey Santa Claus, covered in ash /
If you give a gift, then make it cash
Dum-dum-dum-dum, ho-hum doldrums!
Is to eat a lot of Christmas food /
Hey Santa Claus, how much you weigh? /
Can you still fit into your sleigh?
Got a place to stay / During ho-hum doldrums
Be more polite, and not as snide /
Hey Santa Claus, can you pay the rent? /
If you save the money that you spent?
Information About St. Nicholas Day
To avoid muddying the issue, I won’t bother delineating between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus. Some communities treat the two as one and the same — with typical gifts being chocolate Santa figurines — whereas others go to lengths at keeping the more sectarian St. Nicholas as distinct from the ecumenical Santa Claus.
Therefore, the gifts parents and relatives bestow to young ones on St. Nick’s Day tend to be more serious, practical, and with Christian iconography than are the goodies given on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The website “Why Christmas?” describes celebrations by country; those nations also observing St. Nicholas Day include a description of both celebrations.
If you poke through the links, you’ll notice Holland and Czech Republic celebrate mostly on December 5th but give the children gifts on the morning of December 6th, when the rest of Western Europe and its former colonies observes the feast. Orthodox-dominated countries celebrate on December 19th and will treat you tersely — as depicted below — if you try to persuade them otherwise:
I found a well-rounded explanation that discusses both the tradition before it developed a dozen or so permutations and the modern Dutch variants such as St. Nicholas riding a boat from Spain into the Netherlands with soot-covered chimney climbers in tow. Scandinavian countries prioritize their own saints above St. Nicholas during December; the Feast of St. Thorlakur on December 23rd is but one example.
Although African traditions relating to St. Nick are less publicized, West African legend has it that if you’re good, the village elder gives you a gingko tree seed — and if you’re bad, then world-famous Nigerian pro wrestler Power Uti arrives on his rocket chariot, body slams you through the roof of your family hut, and leaves you a service bill.
The usual date of celebration is December 6th, in alignment with colonial traditions. This is distinct from the December 25th feast at which localized Nativity plays are performed and children play with firecrackers in full view of a regional Santa Claus.
As for other regions? East Africa is Islamicized enough where the Feast of St. Nick and other Christian traditions aren’t widespread, despite Levantine folk narratives about how one of the Three Magi was from Ethiopia. Mainland China and North Korea don’t acknowledge Christian legends except in secular stores, but Hong Kong sells a lot of cheap St. Nicholas-related stuff year-round. Antarctica celebrations depend on the beliefs of the scientists stationed there at the time.
I’m sure that after reading all this some of you will have comments, so post below and share this article with your friends!
Christmas tune, holiday song, parody of consumerism, ho-hum doldrums