St. Nicholas Day – Happy St. Nicholas Day to whom it applies.
This is the main gift giving time in the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria, I believe.
Surprisingly, St. Nicholas Day is not a holiday in any of the countries. Kids are at school and parents are at work with the celebration taking place later tonight. In the Czech Republic, however, today is celebrated publicly, which means you’re likely to see Saint Nicholas, an Angel and the Devil walking around the streets of Prague, battling over children’s souls.
Grylan In Iceland, Christmas season doesn’t start until December 12th and runs through Christmas Eve. One of the thirteen Yuletide Lads, who are a cross between trolls and gnomes, visit children leaving something in their shoe. Each Yuletide lad has his own name and personality with the final visitor being the their mother, Grylan, an ogre with a giant cat who used to take the bad children and make them into a stew until a public decree in 1746 prohibited her and her sons from terrifying people.
In Poland, Christmas Eve is the main gift giving time of the year and is celebrated with at least twelves dishes with an extra plate for unexpected guests. It is said on this magical night, animals can speak like humans. Hopefully, no one runs into a goose which is their main Christmas dish. Meanwhile, in Germany children see the Chritsmas tree for the first time on December 24th and spend the night decorating it.
Italy starts their Christmas season on this St. day, but like Spain, their main gift giving moment is the night of January 5th. Although, presents aren’t delivered by the Three Kings, but a good witch named La Befana who as legend has it, got lost on her way to the stable where Jesus was born, so she spends the night flying on a broom stick, doling out gifts, hoping one of the children is the messiah. In addition to exchanging presents at different times, countries also have different traditions.
For example, in Spain, the centerpiece of the house is the Nativity scene, not the Christmas tree. In the Catalunya region, if you find the figurine of caganer (the crapper) among the donkeys, wise men, Joseph and Mary, you’re supposed to have good luck the following year, while presents are delivered by a crapping log called the cagatio.