Today, December 6th, marks La Festa di San Nicola (the Feast of Saint Nicholas). It is a day to honor San Nicola, the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants, and archers, just to name a few.
San Nicola was born in 270 AD in the village of Patara in Lycia, Asia Minor (which is now known as Turkey). His parents died when San Nicola was just a young man and they left him with a large inheritance. He took his inheritance and used it to help those in need.
One of the most known stories of San Nicola’s acts of kindness is one of a poor man with three daughters. It was customary in those times to offer a “dowry” to prospective husbands. However, this man was poor and had nothing to offer leaving his daughters without the security a marriage could bring them. His daughters would have to find a way to support themselves – which likely meant slavery or prostitution. When San Nicola heard this he secretly went to the home of this man and his daughters and left bags of gold that would give the daughters the dowries they needed in order to marry – therefore sparing them from a “life of sin”. Through stories such as these, people came to know San Nicola for his selfless generosity to people in need.
San Nicola was made the Bishop of the coastal town of Myra (also in Lycia), was imprisoned because of his faith and was later released. He died on December 6 in or around the year 345AD. His body was buried in a Cathedral at Myra and became a place of pilgrimage for many Christians. However, with unrest in the region, Christians became worried that the tomb and remains of San Nicola would be destroyed.
Basilica di San Nicola in Bari
On May 9, 1087, several Italian sailors transported San Nicola’s remains to Bari. The Basilica di San Nicola was built over the crypt and it remains there to this day.
This day is of particular importance to me as it is my father’s “onomastico” (Saint Day). My father was born “Nicolino”, a diminutive of Nicola. My father always did his best to help others, and because of that he was loved and respected by many. When he passed, I heard many stories from people about how my father helped them and what it meant to them. My father may not have been perfect, but he touched many people’s lives during his time on this earth.
So today, as we remember San Nicola, I would like to send a very special message to a very special someone.
Buon Onomastico Papa!!! Ti Voglio Bene!!