In Italy, after the Protestant Reformation, St Nicholas as a gift-giver and protector of the children was replaced by Child Jesus and later by Babbo Natale (similar to Santa Claus). So, today the country has several feasts in the year with the tradition of gift-giving, as well as several figures of gift-givers. Among them St Nicholas and his revived tradition takes a special place in the hearts of children.
On St Nicholas’ Eve, children in Molfetta (an Italian city on the Adriatic coast, in Puglia) leave a plate on the table with a letter asking for gifts and promising to be good in the coming year. The following morning they find on the pillow some apples, candies, mandarins, biscuits, chocolate and various gifts, while the naughty children get a piece of coal, which nowadays is made of coloured sugar.
Painting: Saint Nicholas of Bari, by Gherardo Starnina, c. 1422, El Paso Museum of Art
Taken from http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%27Saint_Nicholas_of_Bari%27,_painting_by_Gherardo_di_Jacopo_Starna,_c._1422,_El_Paso_Museum_of_Art.jpg
St Nicholas’ Barley in Monteleone di Spoleto
In the area of Monteleone di Spoleto (province of Perugia, Umbria) there is a tradition of "St Nicholas’ Barley", which takes place from the old times on December 5, the eve of St Nicholas, who is the patron saint of the village. In the local Church of San Nicola the priest prepares the soup of barley in a large cauldron. This soup is distributed at noon to the inhabitants of Monteleone, starting with the children who are the privileged recipients of the ritual. This tradition commemorates the miracle of the grain, when the bishop saved the city of Myra from famine, procuring grain from the passing ships. The local version of this legend has it that once St Nicholas happened to visit the place and, much impressed by the poverty of the villagers, delivered them some barley to feed the poor.
Festival of St Nicholas in Bari, AD 1087
San Nicola festival of Bari takes place each year in the period around May 9, which is the date of translation of his relics to Bari (in Puglia) in 1087. Today the holy bones rest in the Basilica dedicated to the Saint, and a liquid called "manna" exudes miraculously from them, supposed to possess the healing properties.
Bari celebrates the triumphant entrance of the sailors with the relics of St Nicholas into the city by the solemn parade involving hundreds of reenactors in faithfully reproduced period costumes. Thousands of people welcome them with a lighted procession.
There is a tradition that the girls wishing to marry should come to the Basilica of San Nicola in Bari on December 6, to put a note to their protector and three coins in a special box.
San Nicola festival in Bari
Info & Contact
Association/organization name Compagnia delle Vigne
Address: city of Bari, Apulia region
Feast of St Nicholas and Mistletoe at Argenta
Since 2004 each year on December 6 the city of Argenta (in Emilia-Romagna) celebrates its patron saint with the Feast of St Nicholas and Mistletoe. The spectacular St Nicholas, accompanied by three elves and musicians, is leading the great parade of children. These latter follow him along the streets of the city center, holding the lit lanterns and invoking his name in shouts and chants. The procession ends at the ice rink where Nicholas calls "his cousin Babbo Natale", and then together they distribute the gifts to the children around.
During the event the market stalls are open, offering mistletoes for good luck and apple cakes, which is a typical symbol of the area as well as of St. Nicholas, referred to the legend of dowries given to three poor maidens, which in some Italian regions is represented by three golden apples.
Info & Contact
Association/organization name Celtic Cultural Association Trigallia
Address: town of Argenta, province of Ferrara, region of Emilia-Romagna