Tag Archives: winter holidays

Saint Nicholas — Many Faces, Many Tales

Who's Been Naughty? greeting card

Who’s Been Naughty? holiday greeting card featuring artwork by Duirwaigh Studios. Click image for more info.

Winter is full of magical gift-givers. And even the figure Americans know best, Santa Claus, has different names and arrives on different days, depending on where you live. Throughout much of Europe, he is known as Saint Nicholas.

In the Netherlands, children put their wooden shoes (or sometimes baskets) by the mantel on the eve of Saint Nicholas (December 5) and expect to find them filled with treats the next morning. Saint Nicholas rides through the air on his white horse and comes down the chimney to fill the shoes or baskets. Carrots and hay are left out for his white horse.

Czech and Slovakian kids believe he comes down a golden cord carrying a basket of apples, nuts, and candies. In Hungary, the shoes are left outside a window; in France, children hang stockings near the fire. Continue reading

Let’s Celebrate the Twelfth Night

Women of Myth & Magic 2015 wall calendar by Kinuko Y. Craft

Women of Myth & Magic 2015 wall calendar by Kinuko Y. Craft

Now Christmas is past,
Twelfth Night is the last

To the Old Year adieu,
Great joy to the new

— From the traditional song “Pembrokeshire: Song of the Wren”

Twelfth Night is one of those obscure holidays that I would like to revive. It is usually said to fall on January 5 (the eve of the Epiphany) but sometimes it is celebrated on January 6. (It depends on whether you believe the Twelve Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day or the day after.) Continue reading

St. Lucy or Santa Lucia

Image from our Fairy Houses 2019 wall calendar featuring the whimsical creations of Sally Smith. Click for more info.

The winter holiday season is teeming with mysterious figures shrouded in myth, like Saint Nicholas, who became Santa Claus; the mysterious Frauen of German tradition; and Befana, the old witch of Italy who sweeps away the Old Year at Epiphany. One of my favorites of these numinous characters is St. Lucy or Santa Lucia, who appears at the moment of greatest darkness (her feast day is December 13) to bring light back to the northern hemisphere. Continue reading