BELGRADE – Serbian Orthodox Church and its believers today celebrate St. Nicholas, the patron of travelers, sailors, rafters and children. St. Nicholas is the most common Serbian slava.
It is estimated that almost half of Orthodox Christians in Serbia celebrate St. Nicholas, while the other half, as it is said, visits. More than 600 churches are dedicated to St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas is slava celebrated on the same date – December 6 according to the old, December 19 according to the new calendar, the day when the saint died.
St. Nicholas is also celebrated on May 22, to commemorate the day when his relics were transferred from Myra in Lycia to then orthodox Bari, in Italy, and placed in the church of St. John the Baptist in 1096. The church soon became a gathering place for pilgrims. Three years later citizens of Bari, in honor of St. Nicholas, built a magnificent church.
St. Nicholas is celebrated throughout the Christian world. It is celebrated as children’s holiday in the countries of the Western Europe, because children, if they are obedient, receive gifts on this day. He is protector of the city of Amsterdam.
St. Nicholas was born in the city of Patara in Lycia, Asia Minor, at the time of the Roman Emperor Valerian. He was very religious from an early age and according to legend, Nicholas was said to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara. He tonsured the young Nicholas as a reader and later ordained him a presbyter (priest).
According to legend, guided by miraculous voice Nicholas began spreading faith, justice and mercy, and his appearance brought solace, peace and goodwill.
St. Nicholas falls in time of the great Christmas fasting, so believers prepare only fish and other meatless food.