05 December 2010

Carpatho-Rusyns prepare to celebrate St. Nicholas Day

Traditional Rusyn image of St. Nicholas
December 6 (December 19 on the old calendar) is the feast day of St. Nicholas, one of the most beloved saints among the Carpatho-Rusyn people. 

Rusyns celebrate him with the hymn that begins with the words, "O Kto Kto, Nikolaja L'ubit":

O kto kto Nikolaja l'ubit,
O kto kto Nikolaju služit.

Tomu svjatyj Nikolaj,
Na vsjakij čas pomahaj:
Nikolaje, Nikolaj!

Here's an English version:

O who loves Nicholas the saintly,
Oh who serves Nicholas the saintly.

Him will Nicholas receive,
And give help in time of need.
Holy father Nicholas!

Here's a link to the melody, if you'd like to sing along. 

If you're looking for other ways to mark St. Nicholas Day -- which is honored by many other ethnicities -- you can browse through the countless and always growing offerings of the St. Nicholas Center

Icon from St. Nicholas
Byz. Cath. Church,
Munster, Ind.
The site offers plenty of beautiful images, holiday details and other materials on the model for Santa Claus. There's a lot of information on how various ethnic groups mark the fest of St. Nicholas. 

Many Rusyn-Americans have warm memories of waking up on the morning of Dec. 6 to shoes or stockings filled with little treats left by the saint the night before. It's a tradition that originates in our ancestral villages, in impoverished times when the gift of  an orange was a major treat.

In a more serious holiday tale, St. Nicholas figures in the survival of hundreds of Rusyn immigrants to the United States, coal miners, who weren't in the mines when disaster struck back in 1907.

The Carpatho-Rusyn Society's Christina Duranko tells that fascinating story here.

If you're looking for a modern version of St. Nicholas, the Smithsonian Channel offers "In Search of Santa Claus," which tells the story of the evolution of St. Nicholas into the modern symbol of Christmas gift-giving.

The one-hour special is  scheduled for 7 a.m. (Central) on Sunday, Dec. 5, with repeats at 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, and midnight Friday, Dec. 10.

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