In some countries around the world, there is a tradition that says on December 6th, St. Nicholas comes and puts candies/toys/fruits in your shoes. First, however you have to clean your shoes in order to get something. Now this tradition varies in each countries. Personally, I think this is a good trick to play on children, especially if you want to get them to clean their shoes. But even so, I enjoy this tradition with my family every year.
December 6th is St. Nicholas Day, and in honor of this upcoming day I thought I would show some artworks of Saint Nicholas!
To begin with, St. Nicholas was born in the 4th century into a wealthy family in Patara, Lycia, Asia Minor (now it’s a place in Turkey). Even before he was chosen to be Bishop of Myra, he devoted his life to helping the poor. He saved many families from dreadful fates, including prostitution, starving, and much more.
After his death, he became a legend throughout Europe and Asia. Soon England, France, and Germany were talking about him. Germany even associated Christmas with St. Nicholas, and so did the United States. We soon began to call him Santa Clause!
There are two artworks that I found that are related to St. Nicholas. One of them is by Jan Steen, and the other by Gerard David. Both are from Netherlands.
Jan Steen, The Feast of St. Nicholas, 1655
This artwork is one of my favorites because of the detail that’s put into it. The girl in the middle has just received treats and a doll in her shoe. The boy to our left is crying because he didn’t receive anything. The older girl behind her is holding the empty shoe. Also, the little boy to our right is laughing at the crying brother. The father in the middle seems to be enjoying the moment, remembering his childhood memories of this day. The lady in the back (next to the heavy curtain) is about to bring out something that she is hiding behind the curtains.
Gerard David, Three Legends of Saint Nicholas, 1500-1520
This art piece is about the life of Saint Nicholas, and, as the title states, his legends. The first panel (the one on our left) is meant to be St. Nicholas on the day of his birth. He is standing up and thanking God for the life he has received. The middle panel is the young Saint putting a purse of gold through a poor families window. I’m assuming this is the legend were he saved the three girls from prostitution. The father was about to send the three girls into prostitution because they were very poor, but St. Nicholas saved them. The right panel is a bit more gruesome. The Saint here is depicted as the Bishop of Myra. He has just restored life to three boys who were killed by an innkeeper, and this innkeeper was about to salt the boys and sell the meat to her customers. Luckily, St. Nicholas was able to save them before this happened.