Saint Nicholas Day in Croatia (Sveti Nikola)
The Tradition of Saint Nicholas Day is alive and well in Osijek. The churches play an important role through-out Croatia with the event celebrated slightly different depending on the region. There is many Traditions and different Saint Days through the month of December. In Osijek the one that Children enjoy the most is St Nicholas Day that falls this year on Wednesday December 6th.
On the eve of St. Nicholas day December 5th was the day children used to traditionally polish their boots. They would be tidied up before placing them on the windowsill. Children were told that if they were good children they would wake up with gifts from St Nicholas. Today the Grandparents and Parents still keep tradition alive and place by having grandchildren place shoes or winter boots by the front entrance. The next morning youngsters raced to see if anything was left in the boots or shoes. If they were good expected to receive some treats such as candy, chocolate and small Gifts in their boots. However Children that were naughty were visited by Krampus and given silver leaves on a twig. The worse you were the larger the sticks. Some may not have heard of Krampus because of the nastiness of the very idea of being visited would give children nightmares. The popularity was spread throughout Europe and never caught on in North America.
What is Krampus some may ask? According to many stories it was described as a hairy terrifying beast with Horns enough to scare any child to be good. In parts of Croatia, Krampus is said to be wearing a cloth sack around his waist with chains around his neck, wrists, and ankles. It also said that he would take many gifts for himself if the child was undeserving.
In one Book called “The Christmas Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., by William D. Crump,” he describes it in this passage from the book.
“In the Mid-nineteenth century, St. Nicholas’s Day (December6) was observed along with St.Lucia’s Day (December 13) in such northern cities as Osijek, Where the saint brought apples and walnuts (denoting plenty and blessing) to deserving Children. His accomplices varied among regions, from Luca the Hag (deriving from “Lucia”), to the fur clad, chain-rattling Krampus, to a devil with an angle. Today, St. Nicholas brings gifts to northern and central Croatia, while it is St. Lucia in Southern and Northeastern region.”
The one of the oldest churches in Croatia is St Nicholas with a unique tradition.
The real St. Nicholas was a patron saint for Children and sailors, passengers and fisherman. In one place particular in Croatia the village of Komiza there is the church of St. Nikola and was the First Church-Fortress in Dalmatia that dates back in history. On the day of December 6th the really interesting part is a small wooden boat is carried to the church by a group of fisherman to be burnt in front of the church. It is ritual that is done in the presence of the Church and Patron statue. The remaining ash is used for the blessing of newly built Ships and boats. After the Statue of St. Nicolas is carried out and a small procession around the church.
Children are able to take part in the many days of fun and joy of Advent. Through-out the month of December is full of activities in Osijek from now until the end of advent. It has become a paradise for them, who now usually get presents on St. Nicholas’ day, and on Christmas day.