December 6 is the annual Nicholasmas feast day which commemorates the legendary Bishop Nicholas. He is an honored saint in Iceland. He lived in Asia Minor during the 4th Century. He is known as the patron saint of seamen and travelers. People pray to him for safety from floods, poverty, and hardships. He was known as gentle, kind, and protective of the poor. He was very giving and usually carried out his mission in secret and would reward good children.
We know him as St. Nicholas, Santa, St. Nick, and we think of him as the jolly, mystical man bringing gifts for Christmas. Sometimes, he is Nicholas the Wonderworker. When he was a baby and had just been baptized, he supposedly stood on his feet for three hours on his own accord. During his life, he worked many miracles including saving the city of Myra from a famine.
In Iceland, there have been many (some sources say more than 39) churches dedicated to St. Nicholas. Helgastaðabók (Book of Helgastaðir) is an Icelandic Medieval manuscript about the life of St. Nicholas. The book was reprinted in 1982 by the Árni Magnússon Institute.
A few of the churches named after St. Nicholas in Iceland are: Bessastaðir Church of the Holy Virgin and St. Nicholas
Skógar Church of St. Nicholas
Oddi, the home of Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241)
Oddi is the church of Reverend Matthías Jochumsson who served there from 1880-1886. The Reverend wrote the text of Ó Guð vors lands (O, God of Our Land), the Icelandic National Anthem.
In Europe, children put a shoe in the window for various celebrations and some have this tradition on the night of Nicholasmas. Even though Iceland does not have “Santa,” we love the stories of the 13 Yule Lads that come down from their mountain home one by one until Christmas. Look for these and other fun and interesting stories on our various Facebook pages starting next week. The people who belong to the <a title="Icelandic Online Club" href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/Icelandiconlineclub/" target="_blank">Icelandic Online Club </a>are in for a special treat. Svala Arnason Dunn, who writes <i>The Christmas Trolls of Iceland</i>, will be sharing their story for IOC members each day until Christmas.
Happy St. Nicholas Feast Day, everyone! Have a wonderful day.