Saint Nicolas’s day
This month’s article about Places to be in Belgium will be... about a lot of places ! Every small town that wants to mean something for its young inhabitants, children in other words, celebrates the arrival of Saint Nicolas in its own community. In the French speaking part of the country, the holy man is known as Saint Nicolas, the Flemish speaking Belgians and the Dutch call him Sinterklaas. Between 14 November until his birthday 6 December, you can watch these festivities organized all over the country. Saint Nicolas usually arrives on a small boat all the way from Spain !
St Nicolas is known all over the world: he is the patron saint of the children, fishermen, prisoners, barristers and bachelors. The legend says that he saved three children from death by a vicious butcher. He goes from house to house during the night to bring presents to every child that showed a good behaviour in the past 12 months prior to Saint Nicolas’ arrival. The gifts can be toys but also food like speculoos, Belgian chocolate made with Saint Nicolas’ image and small oranges. In order to keep record of the children’s behaviour, St Nicolas carries a thick book with him in which he writes down the name of every child. He is accompanied of his assistant, who carries a large heavy bag full of presents.
Saint Nicolas birthday is celebrated in a different way in each country : in Belgium he walks the street on a horseback accompanied of his assistant who goes on foot by his side.
He even has a city named after him : Sint Niklaas !
In the United States, Saint Nicolas has a slightly other appearance : he is a rather impressive figure, always in a good mood and enjoying life. As Santa Claus he also brings the American children presents, not on his birthday but at Christmas.
If you want that St Nicolas to pass at your house during the night with a lot of presents, do not forget to put a bowl of water and a carrot for the horse, as well as a drink for St Nicolas. In Belgium, that often is a glass of Belgian Beer... St Nicolas birthday 6 December