Saint Nicholas or Saint Nikolaos of Myra is a historic 4th century saint and Greek Bishop from modern-day Turkey. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving and this practice is celebrated on his feast day on 6th of December in the Catholic Church.
In Slovenia it is traditional to gift children on this day – in the past they mostly got citrus fruit like oranges and tangerines, but also dried fruit and nuts. A gift of clothes like scarves, hats, gloves or socks was not unusual. Nowadays children mostly get sweets.
Saint Nicholas usually goes around in his bishop attire accompanied by angels and demons, called parklji. Parklji are an indistinguishable part of his feast day, figures dressed in black and covered in coal ash that chase and scare misbehaving children. Sometimes they gift them with hazelnut branches as a symbol of punishment but this practice has largely died off.
What I remember most fondly of this day (or a few days before if the date fell on a weekend) is the tradition at my elementary school. Instead of sandwiches we were given a parkelj made from sweet bread. We just loved them, chatting excitedly about whether to start eating it from the legs up or from the head down, dunking it into our cocoa or not. I still associate the start of December with them and I love when mum brings them home. 😀 I guess you’re never too old for eating a good parkelj from the local bakery or to compare the various ways the horns, arms, and legs can be shaped. You can have them with raisins for eyes and buttons, or just plain – either way, they are here to stay. 😀