Or St. Nicholas Really is Coming to Town
As expats who are usually not home with family and friends during the holidays we have always tried to immerse ourselves in the culture and the traditions of the country we have adopted during our 6 months. As Christmas approaches instead of feeling sad or missing our families we look around and see what traditions or holiday events we can attend in our new country. In doing this we have enjoyed multiple Independence Days, May Day festivities, and feast days for many saints, among other holidays.
In Croatia one of their national holidays is the feast day of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is the Patron Saint of sailors and fisherman and his feast day is December 6th. Yes, this is the same St. Nicholas that is Father Christmas (Santa Claus) and children do receive small presents on this day.
Since the town of Sibenik sits on the waterway that leads from the Krka River to the Adriatic Sea many people here make their living as either sailors or fisherman. There stands in the old part of town a tiny Church honoring St. Nicholas which is only open for three days every year. The church is decorated with nautical flags and model boats are hung from the ceiling. These boats represent the boats that will run in the Sibenik Regatta, an annual boat race held to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas and to give him thanks for another safe year of life on the water.
Boats come from Italy, Slovenia and Croatia to participate in the race all for the first place prize of a trophy. This year the race was run on December 7th and Mike got to ride on one of the boats and to help with the yeoman’s work of keeping the boat from keeling over. There were 35 boats in the race and Mike was part of a four-man crew on a boat called Champagne. I opted to be on the much larger and much warmer observation boat (okay I partied on a yacht) while taking pictures of the boats in the water.
It was a bright and sunny day on the water and the sailboats whizzing around on the water with the centuries old city of Sibenik in the background certainly made this a special experience. Of course seeing Santa water skiing by as the cannon sounded to begin the race or in getting to meet St. Nicholas made this a special occasion and experience anyway.
Sibenik is a town of 46,000 residents and many of them were out to enjoy the beautiful winter day and to watch the sailboats parading up and down SibenikBay. This was just one festivity marking the upcoming holidays that is not celebrated back home but which means a great deal to the people of the land we currently call home and we loved sharing this holiday with them in some small way.
The Holidays are a time of being with family and friends. What we have learned however is that no matter where we are we do have family and friends with us. They are just ‘new family and friends’ and we feel blessed to have met them along the way as we live as The 6 Monthers.