St. Nicholas

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St. Nicholas Symbols

A number of symbols help us recognize St. Nicholas. They developed from his most popular stories and customs.

A special tall pointed hat worn by a bishop. The miter is a general symbol for bishops, but it is unique to St. Nicholas among holiday gift-givers. (also mitre)

A hooked staff carried by a bishop; represents a shepherd's staff as the bishop is to be the shepherd of the people, as Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Again, a crozier is a general symbol for bishops, but unique to Nicholas among gift-givers. (also crosier)

Gold BallsThree Gold Balls
Represent the gold given to provide dowries for the impoverished maidens. Nicholas' gold balls became the pawnbroker's symbol. Sometimes oranges or apples are used to represent the gold.

Gold coinsGold Coins
Another way of representing the gold given as dowries.

Money BagsMoney Bags
Usually three, but sometimes one, represent the gold thrown into the house to provide dowry money.

MaidensThree Maidens
The three young women who received the gold dowry money.

Children in TubChildren In Tub
Show Nicholas as the protector of children, from the story rescuing young children or students from the evil butcher or innkeeper. Usually three children are in the tub, but sometimes only two are present.

Often shown with St. Nicholas because he is their patron saint.

Symbolizes the close association St. Nicholas has with sailors, ships, and the sea.

Represents Nicholas' relationship with ships and sailors.

This large book is the Book of the Gospels or the Holy Scriptures. In some European gift-giving traditions the large book is the recordbook of children's behavior.

Shoe with carrotShoes
Children put carrots, turnips, or hay in their shoes for St. Nicholas' horse or donkey. St. Nicholas replaces them with treats. So shoes filled with things for his horse or donkey or shoes with children's treats are symbols for St. Nicholas.

Which symbols can you find in these Saint Nicholas pictures?
Four symbols:
St Nicholas, Ashchurch, UK
Statue, St Nicholas Parish, Ashchurch, UK
Photo: Anglican World/JMR
Seven symbols:
Block print by Marlene Reidel, 1985
Block print by Marlene Reidel
from Heilige, Ueberreuter, 1985;
used by permission
Four symbols:
TCM Phonecard
TCM Phonecard
St Nicholas Center Collection

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