The Translation of Saint Nicholas’ Day

By / 4 December 2015 / Professional translation

The Translation of Saint Nicholas’ Day, numerous people’s patron saint

As well as being the patron saint for bachelor men and hence Saint Catherine’s male counterpart (why not have a look at our article about the translation of Saint Catherine’s Day!), Saint Nicholas is also the patron saint for children, sailors, merchants, people living in the Lorraine region in France and Russians [1].

Celebrations held as a reminder of his passing away on the 6th December are relatively popular in many European countries including the Netherlands. The translation of Saint Nicholas into Dutch is Sinterklaas, immediately reminiscent of the American translation of Father Christmas, “Santa Claus”, a figure he is linked to [2].

The Translation of Saint Nicholas’ Day: popular throughout Europe

Colourful translations: beyond the processions

Once he has arrived on the eve of the 6th December aboard his steam boat (“pakjesboot 12”) from Spain, Saint Nicholas hands out presents (essentially sweet treats) to children. The translation of Saint Nicholas’ Day into practice involves parents and children leaving him and his donkey respectively a glass of something alcoholic and a carrot.

The Translation of Saint Nicholas' Day - Selmer van Alten, Pakjesboot 12 (Flickr)

The Translation of Saint Nicholas’ Day – Selmer van Alten, Pakjesboot 12 (Flickr)

His widespread popularity is greatly due to the moving of his relics from modern day Turkey (his birthplace, hence the name, Nicholas of Myra) to the Italian town of Bari. Shortly after someone native to the French Lorraine region travelled back home with one of Saint Nicholas’ phalanges, the town of Saint-Nicolas-de-Port (renamed for the occasion) turned into a construction site for the basilica still standing there today, the one around and inside which the procession on the eve of the 6th December takes place [5].

The Franco-German translation of Saint Nicholas’ Day

The translation of Saint Nicholas into German is “Niklaus”. Following him around wherever he goes, “Knecht Ruprecht” punishes those children who don’t deserve a present from Saint Nicholas [4].

The Franco-German legend about his resuscitating three children killed by a butcher emerged eight centuries after his passing away and is telling of his ongoing popularity. Whereas the translation of Saint Nicholas’ Day rather highlights his moral-laden presents, this legend is an additional reminder of his healing powers [1].

The translation of Saint Nicholas’ Day: better call Mytranslation

In Austria, the processions led in his name also emphasize his role as a judge. He slips into the crowd with his demon servants (called “Krampus”) to make sure children have learnt their catechism lessons [4].

Unlike Saint Nicholas, Mytranslation isn’t there to pass judgement on your projects. Admittedly, you probably won’t get any tangerines through the post on the 6th December from us, but you certainly won’t get an onion or a sack of coal either. Instead, we’ll provide you with a quality professional translation!

Sources and photo credits

[1] – Université de Liège: De l’histoire à la légende (webpage in French, a Mytranslation language)
[2] – Culture.gouv.fr: Saint Nicolas (webpage in French)
[3] – The Translation of Saint Nicholas’ Day – Selmer van Alten, Pakjesboot 12 (Flickr)
[4] – Tourisme en Meurthe et Moselle : La Fête de la Saint-Nicolas en France et dans les autres pays (webpage in French, a Mytranslation language)
[5] – Le fanclub de Saint Nicolas : Saint-Nicolas-de-Port (webpage in French)

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