vol II date / index
St. Damasus, Pope, A. D. 384. Sts. Fuscian, Victoricus, and Gentian, A. D. 287. St. Daniel, the Stylite, A. D. 494.
ST. NICHOLAS IN RUSSIA.
A gentleman obligingly contributes the subjoined account of a northern usage on the 5th of December, the vigil of St. Nicholas. He communicates his name to the editor, and vouches for the authenticity of his relation, "having himself been an actor in the scene he describes."
(For the Every-Day Book.)
In the fine old city of Leewvarden, the capital of West Friezland, there are some curious customs preserved, connected with the celebration of the anniversary of this saint. From time immemorial, in this provice, St. Nicholas has been hailed as the tutelary patron of children and confections; no very inappropriate association, perhaps. On the eve, or Avond, as it is there termed, of this festival, the good saint condescends, (as currently asserted, and religiously believed, by the younger fry,) to visit these sublunar spheres, and to irradiate by his majestic presence, the winter fireside of his infant votaries.
During a residence in the above town, some twenty years ago, in the brief days of happy boyhood, (that green spot in our existence,) it was my fortune to be present at one of these annual visitations. Imagine a group of happy youngsters sporting around the domestic hearth, in all the buoyancy of riotous health and spirits, brim-full of joyful expectation, but yet in an occasional pause, casting frequent glances towards the door, with a comical expression of impatience, mixed up with something like dread of the impending event. At last a loud knock is heard, in an instant the games are suspended, and the door slowly unfolding, reveals to sight the venerated saint himself, arrayed in his pontificals, with pastoral staff and jewelled mitre. Methinks I see him now! yet he did "his spiriting gently," and his tone of reproof, "was more in sorrow than in anger!"
In fine, the family peccadillos being tenderly passed over, and the more favourable reports made the subject of due encomiums, good father Nicholas gave his parting benediction, together with the promise, (never known to fail,) of more substantial benefits, to be realized on the next auspicious morning. So ends the first act of the farce, which it will be readily anticipated is got up with the special connivance of papa and mamma, by the assistance of some family friend, who is quite au fait to the domestic politics of the establishment. The concluding scene, however, is one of unalloyed pleasure to the delighted children, and is thus arranged.
Before retiring to rest, each member of the family deposits a shoe on a table in a particular room, which is carefully locked, and the next morning is opened in the presence of the assembled household; when lo! by the mysterious agency (doubtless) of the munificent saint, the board is found covered with bons bons, toys, and trinkets.
It may not be deemed irrelevant to add, that on the anniversary, the confectioners' shops display their daintiest inventions, and are gaily lighted up and ornamented for public exhibition, much in the same way as at Paris on the first day of the new year.
These reminiscences may not prove unacceptable to many, who contemplate with satisfaction the relics of ancient observances, belonging to a more primitive state of manners, the memory of which is rapidly passing into oblivion; and who, perhaps, think with the writer, in one sense at least, that modern refinements, if they tend to render us wiser, hardly make us happier!
Aleppo Pine. Pinus Halipensis.
Dedicated to St. Damasus.