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December 14, 2007

Not so 'Little' Saint Nic

Stnicholas In Greece, even though Saint Nicolas is part of the epiphany celebrations, he is not Santa Claus. Ayios Nikolaos is the Patron Saint of Sailors. Rather than the jolly, rosy cheeked, red clad Saint Nic that Coca Cola so loves, Ayios Nikolaos is depicted with clothes drenched in brine, seawater dripping from his beard, and his face is covered in perspiration - exhausted by acts of rescuing sinking ships and saving drowning men.

This truly heroic figure is very well respected in Greece, and few sailors leave the port without an icon of Ayios Nikolaos in their ship to watch over them, and ensure their safe return. Even though many people in Greece do have Christmas trees in their homes these days, traditionally and even today, the place of the tree was filled by a small, beautifully decorated ship, called a karavaki. An ode to the brave Patron Saint of Sailors.

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