Sankt Nikolaus in Istanbul

Thanks to my Mum coming to England from Austria to marry my Dad our household celebrated Sankt Nikolaus on December the 5th as an exciting prelude to Christmas. In the evening we would put our Wellington boots on the windowsill and in the morning they would (if we had been good and we always had!) be overflowing with satsumas, nuts, dates, figs, chocolate and small gifts. We went off to school that morning glowing from sugar and the happiness that we alone in our school had had such a special start to the day. My Mum also told us about the St. Nikolaus events that happened in her community and yesterday I got to experience what she was talking about for the very first time. In Istanbul. St. Nikolaus with his curly beard, crozier and mitre came to the Austrian School in Karaköy into a room smelling of pine and lit with candles. In the best organised event I have seen since arriving in Turkey (I am sure it would take these women less than a week to sort out the 9 separate desks that need to be visited to collect a parcel from customs, the apathetic service at the post office and the illogical dawdle that is a residence permit application) our German, Turkish and English speaking St Nikolaus consulted his big red book to tell each child about their successes and some area that might require a little work. Matti was very surprised that St. Nikolaus seemed to know him so well and admitted that there may be some truth in him needing to be a bit more patient! I wished I had used the opportunity to scare Anton into letting me cut his nails without the neighbours suspecting torture, but anyway all he remembered from the very serious conversation was that St. Nikolaus was very proud of him putting things in the bin. Then our much much more good than naughty boys were given bags of goodies decorated with real pine and tied with red ribbons and we eventually meandered home to light the second candle on our advent wreath. I just wish my Mum could have skipped over the oceans to be with us.

Sankt Nikolaus goodies
At the Austrian School
Introducing Sankt Nikolaus
Advent Wreath Matti at the table
Sankt Nikolaus consults his book
... could be more patient ...
Well done for putting things in the bin, Anton
From Sankt Nikolaus' book
Anton's spoils
Anton's badge

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9 thoughts on “Sankt Nikolaus in Istanbul

  1. Julia this is just amazing and so special. we have nothing like that here in Australia. Thank you so much for sharing it with us and allowing us to experience it with you.

  2. I cant get over it, the real thing! My Dad, lieber Vati, used to be Bishop Nikolaus for many of our friends, it was such a serious, awe inspiring occasion. Imagine how I felt at the first Father Christmas appearance at playgroup here in england, just no comparison....And the smell of the first Satsumas,Aschanti nuts and pine needles, so beautiful and memorable. I am so pleased you all could experience that.A proper for taste of Christmas!

  3. Thank you so much Belinda, it's funny that I got this wonderful Christmas experience in Istanbul. A lovely surprise. Mum I never realised before why Father Christmas was such a disappointment to you but I have to say this was in another league. The children took it so seriously and it really was a moment of reflection and praise. Having the smell of stollen, orange, pine and nuts was just so nice for the adults too. What a come down fake trees and cheap sweets must have felt! It has been great for us to find ways of our children experiencing the delight of Christmas here.

  4. I am positively shocked by the multiculturalism.... An English woman , following an Austrian tradition , in a muslin country ... I am glad you and your family had this great opportunity!!! I was not familiar with this tradition of St. Nicklaus , either ( though we celebrate Saint Nicolaos' nameday on 06/12 )but it sounds like a great experience for kids!!!

  5. I hope you one day have a chance to visit the home town of St Nikolaus, Myra, which is today called Demre ( When we visited it in 1998 with Annmaj it was called Kale. An amazing experience! Now, however, it seems to become more and more "turistik"...

  6. Uffi I had completely forgotten that it the story actually began very close to Istanbul! I really hope we get the chance to take the kids one day...maybe even together.

  7. Julia, I love to read your posts! You are explaining our traditions so nicely. Like you know... we are celebrating the same things like you do... but confessed... I don´t always know the exact background. So I was always thinking how I could manage to do this with St. Nikolaus and I fell in love with the idea to put boots outside to get filled up! I´m going to start this the next year!
    I did laugh out loud when read about Anton... and Matti... how cute are they!? I wish I could meet you all one day! Hug you

  8. Rebekka you are always welcome here and I will not visit Austria without seeing Max and Lina for real! Thanks so much for your lovely comment. This experience was such a treasure for us all especially as I was thinking about my Mum a lot because it is her birthday today. I hope Lina is feeling much better too. Hugs to all you lovely people.

  9. Julia, your kids are having such an amazing, multi-cultural experience here! I love hearing about it. Thanks for sharing.


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