Today is the feast of St. Nicholas who was born in Patara, part of present-day Turkey, who became a Christian bishop and is believed to have died on the 6th December 343. Stories of his work for the poor and legends about him spread far and wide and he became known as the protector of children and sailors and was associated with gift giving. In Holland he continues to be an important figure and the children put out their shoes the night before the 6th December in the hope that St Nicholas (Sint Nikolaas or Sinter Klaas) will leave gifts for them. In America Sinter Klaas became Santa Claus (the modern day Father Christmas).
Because St. Nicholas was such a popular saint in Europe until the Reformation in the 1500s many old churches and chapels are dedicated to him.
St. Nicholas' Church in High Bradfield is one of them. There was an Advent service there yesterday afternoon with an invitation to local women's groups as part of the patronal festivities, but since 87 m.p.h. gales were being recorded up there and being relayed to the local news programmes I decided not to go. Apparently High Bradfield felt the full force of the wind - the strongest gales in the area, which is not surprising being so high up and exposed to the elements. Thankfully, the weather has calmed down.
The chapel in Haddon Hall, Derbyshire has wall paintings including some in the chancel that illustrate incidents associated with the life of St. Nicholas - resurrecting three children and calming a storm at sea. St. Nicholas was associated from early times with the chapel. The 'chapel of St. Nicholas' was mentioned in a marriage settlement of 1180.
Anyway, coming back to present-day festivities as we approach Christmas I've included a collage of the chocolate figures that our grandson no. 2 has been making ready for packaging for the chocolate shop, patisserie and cafe owned by a family friend in the south west of England and where a grandson no 3 sometimes works, although he has less time now that he's a trainee chef in a local hotel restaurant. In the bottom photo you can see some milk chocolate St. Nicholas figures, but I wonder how many shoppers will associate these with the popular Father Christmas? I've been told that a huge Father Christmas has been made which will be sold and the proceeds will go to a local charity.
Below are some more of the chocolate work creations that are made on site and displayed in the patisserie shop window.