Today’s photo was taken in 2012, in Bari (Apulia, Italy), on our last weekend trip within Italy before we moved to the United States. Saint Nicholas (San Nicola in Italian) is the patron saint of the city of Bari.

Saint Nicholas, celebrated on December 5th (or 6th, depending on the country) is a saint that is very dear to us. First of all, during his lifetime, he traveled a lot – just like we tend to do.
Also Luca, our middle son (in the picture, under the statue of the saint) feels a special connection with this saint, whose name is the same as his dutch granddad. In 2015, when we moved back to the Netherlands, the kid had an opportunity to bond more with him.
Moreover, in this country, Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) is considered still alive by popular folklore. Did you know that all dutch kids love this saint who, once a year, on his birthday, comes to every dutch town and brings gifts to the kids?
The same is true in he German tradition: Sankt Nikolaus is the gift bearer, loved by kids of all ages.
In the common iconography, he is dressed in red and he sports a long, white beard.
While most of the world nowadays celebrates Christmas with a gift giving tradition, not everyone knows that the figure called ‘Father Christmas’ (in Europe) was actually a commercial invention by the Coca Cola company that largely derived from the imagery of this saint, just moving 20 days ahead the pre-existing gift-giving tradition, aligning the gift-giving ritual with Christmas (when almost everybody has holidays): it was then that Sankt Nikolaus got turned into Santa Claus.

Interestingly enough, when we were planning to move back to Italy and we were searching for a country house, we ended up finding what we were looking for in a small town – Soriano nel Cimino, unaware that the saint was at work for us behind the scenes: we didn’t realize it back in October when we chose to buy a house in this location, but guess what? We later found out that the patron saint of Soriano nel Cimino is also Saint Nicholas, just like in Bari! [If you want to learn more about our latest move to this location, you can read more on our site at http://www.sanctuaryofjoy.org/en/sanctuary-of-joy-new-home-in-italy/ ]

But wait! Last but not least, as we looked for a local carpenter to help us fix up the roof of the house, the gentleman we got referred to, to help with this work, is also called Nicola! Coincidence? We call those ‘signs from the Universe’, and we feel supported and protected.