Growing up in London, of Polish parents, my brother and I always looked forward to Dec 6th, St Nicholas Day - as children we got presents, but as we got older the gifts became smaller. Even though I am nearly 50yrs young, my mother, brother and wife still share small gifts on St Nicholas Day.
I have children of my own now, and they get presents on 6th Dec in the same way - my wife and I also give each other presents, but just some token gesture like some chocolates, or a small gift.
As a 3-4 yr old I was taken to the local town hall where St Nicholas would appear with some angels and he would hand out presents to children who attended - (these were presents bought by the child's parents but handed out as if from St Nicholas). Presents are handed out by St Nicholas, and not by Santa Claus .... Later as we got older, presents were left by our beds so when we woke on Dec 6th we would have presents :o)
I know that 'Meeting St Nicholas' is organised in our Polish Centre, POSK in Hammersmith West London, where loads of young children gather with their parents to see St Nicholas - it's a great tradition for Polish people, and I believe this is celebrated in other countries like Holland and Belgium.
how do they explain to their foreign friends why they got extra presents from Santa and other kids didn't? ;)
We just explain that this is a Polish tradition - remember they receive presents from St Nicholas and not Santa. We also tell them that Polish people's main celebration day over Christmas period is Christmas Eve, and not Christmas Day - there is a big meal on Christmas Eve, after which presents are shared from under the Christmas Tree, and those who are able will attend midnight mass - some Polish people say you shouldn't drink alcohol with the meal on Christmas Eve, but others aren't so strict and we being the 'not so strict' will have wine, and vodka to accompany our meal :o)
As we live in London, and have also been brought up to observe British traditions, we Celebrate Christmas Day the way other Brits do .... Turkey Christmas Lunch, with all the trimmings, Christmas Crackers on the table, followed by falling asleep on the sofa watching the usual tv shows ...... re-runs of Only Fools & Horses or Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show from the seventies !
In the same way Polish people celebrate Dec 6th and 24th .... and get gifts twice at Christmas, living in England we get gifts on our birthdays, something I was told by my mum and grandparents Polish people don't usually celebrate in a big way, and also on our 'Imieniny' or our Saint's Day which is the day Polish people celebrate more :o) I'm sure some may disagree with me, but this is what I was told.
In any case ..... it's great being Polish :o)