Happy St. Nicholas Day!
Although St. Nicholas isn’t usually a big deal in the US, in Germany and in most Eastern European countries, it is. (I can’t really speak to other places, because I don’t have the experience.) On the Orthodox Christian side, there are two sets of songs that are common for Christmas – and although we’re still in a fasting period, St. Nicholas is kind of the celebration to whet the appetite for Nativity. One set is the church “songs” – the pieces that are part of the church services (particularly in Orthodox practice) that are proscribed for the time of year and the particular feast days and such.
The other set are “kolady”, that is, the carols, which get sung when people get together to celebrate. I remember, years ago, after a weekday Liturgy at Holy Trinity Cathedral just after Christmas (still in the Nativity season) where, after Liturgy, there was a group of about eight of us, including Archbishop Job, who hung around for another half hour or so after the Liturgy was over singing all the kolady we could think of. (I don’t think it was limited to Slavic carols either.) It was chilly outside, but the sun was bright, and the windows there are quite unusual for an Orthodox church, as they are done in art-deco geometric patterns, but they have the effect of diffusing the sunlight and making the inside of the church almost glow in golden rays when it’s sunny.
The St. Nicholas kolady don’t exactly belong to Christmas, but at the same time, they don’t not belong either. The most famous is “O Kto, Kto Nikolaja l’ubit“, which is usually just referred to as “O Kto, Kto” (O who, who loves Nicholas’ shortened to ‘O who, who’).
I like this version because it’s got the English and… whatever other language it is (Russian or Ukrainian or Carpatho-Rusyn) and both languages are easy to understand.
There’s a joke that there’s a missing last verse that goes like this:
Arius, heretic most hated
For he taught that Jesus was created.
Seeing that he fell from grace,
Nicholas punched him in the face.
Holy Father Nicholas!
Anyway, I wish you all a happy feast of St. Nicholas! Enjoy the music!