Saint Nicholas in Greek Culture

English Language Study for Russian Orthodox Learners

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St. Nicholas, a patron saint of all Greece, is especially loved by Greek fishermen and sailors.  The sea is very important to the country, as many families work in the shipping and fishing industry, or in the navy.  For centuries, in Greek folklore St. Nicholas was seen as “The Lord of the Sea” and protector of seamen.  Many churches and chapels along the coastline (побережье) are dedicated to St. Nicholas.  It is customary for villagers to enter a chapel, light a candle and pray for a relative or friend who is at sea.

Priests bless ships in St. Nicholas’ name.  A Greek ship never leaves port without an icon of St. Nicholas on board.  In preparation for their journey, the sailors pray before the icon for a safe return.  Infant boys in fishing villages are often baptized in the name of Nikolaos.  At Christmas, all the village boats, even the smallest ones, are decorated with blue and white lights in honour of St. Nicholas.  Every year, on the feast of St. Nicholas, the Greek Navy holds a special festive ceremony at the Hellenic Naval Academy.