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Until last week, when Pinolona kindly reminded me about it, I had totally forgotten about Mikołajki. Maybe because it wasn’t really a big occasion at our house when I was little. Or rather, it was a non-occasion. I vaguely recall getting chocolates from my grandma, or maybe a new toy, or a book, and I vaguely recall that this could have happened sometime around December 6th. But then again, I always got candies from my grandma, or books, or other cute little things, because that’s what grandmas are for, right? They come to visit and they bring you gifts. No Święty Mikołaj needed.
Ah yes, Święty Mikołaj! Let’s get back on track here, shall we?
So, according to the catholic calendar, December 6th is the day of Saint Nicholas, which would be English for Święty Mikołaj. And somehow, in the Polish tradition, December 6th is a day (well, one of the days, really) when little kids are supposed to get little gifts. Little gifts, because the heavy-duty gifts are saved for Christmas, naturally.
Hence, December 6th is called Mikołajki. You’re supposed to clean and shine your shoes the night before, and if you’ve been a good kid, you will find something nice in them the next morning. And that means I better start shining my shoes if I want to get any gifts tomorrow.
Then of course, Mikołaj does another round of gift deliveries at Christmas, or rather, on Christmas Eve as is traditional in Poland. Poor guy, he really gets a workout.
Visually, he resembles Santa Claus, except for some areas of Kaszuby and Wielkopolska, where he morphs into another persona known as Gwiazdor and carries a stick to beat naughty kids. For the good ones he brings gifts, of course.
Here is an interesting article about this Święty Mikołaj vs Gwiazdor issue, unfortunately only in Polish.
And as for me, I don’t care that much who brings my gifts. Mikołaj, Santa Claus, Gwiazdor or Hogfather, it’s all good, as long as my presents get here safely and on time.