Festa di San Nicola di Bari
In Italy today is the Festa di San Nicola di Bari, the man who the Christmas time legend of Saint Nicholas is based on. This third century bishop from present day Turkey died on December 6, 343 in Myra. During the period of the Crusades his body was stolen by the Italians and interned in Bari, on the heal of the Italian peninsula.
On Monday the Immacolata Concezione is celebrated here and traditionally this has marked the start of the Christmas season in Italy. Unfortunately this year it seems that the retail establishments have gotten a two or three week jump on the shopping season as window displays began to appear in force in mid-November. Our mail has been inundated with a rash of holiday fliers from the chain stores. Friends have commented that the stores are trying to get every euro possible out of this season due to the dismal economic outlook.
This is different than what we have experienced the previous two Christmas seasons and unfortunately is mirroring the commercialization so prevalent in the US. I tried to explain “Black Friday” to my barber the other day but I think a combination of my Italian and the frenzy that is that day in America left him confused.
The true legend of San Nicola is a good example of what the real meaning of the Christmas season should be…using what we have been given to help others, in the name of the Christ child.