Thanksgiving and Black Friday have just passed which can only mean one thing…Christmas is coming! But by the time you sit down with family to open gifts and reminisce about another year gone by, a lesser-known holiday that deserves your attention will have come and gone. December 6th is St. Nicholas’s feast day and the one day of the year when the holiday beer Samichlaus is brewed.
Samichlaus is a German brew, and the name directly translates to Santa Claus. It makes sense that he would have a beer named after him, since St. Nicholas was best known for his generosity. Tales of his generosity were carried around the world, by sailors (who claim him as their patron saint), who no doubt also partook. After his death on Dec. 6th, AD 343 he supposedly continued to give gifts and guidance to those in need. Hence his connection to December, and Christmas. But since when does Santa Claus have anything to do with beer? Isn’t he the guy in red who spends his time passing out children’s toys and candy canes? It turns out he’s actually also the patron saint of brewers, barrel makers, and coopers among many other groups.
The fact that there is a patron saint of brewers, and the fact that it’s Saint Nicholas shouldn’t come as too much of a shock though. After all the church has a long history of brewing. Back when beer was seen as more of a staple in a normal diet, Monks all over the world practiced the art of brewing. And as important as beer is year round, in those days it was especially important during the winter. Given the church’s historical connections to beer and brewing, and given Saint Nicholas’s popularity throughout the church and world as a whole, it’s no huge shock that the church would find a way to bring these two great subjects together.
So make sure to observe and celebrate Saint Nicholas’s feast day on Dec. 6th with a cold Samichlaus. And this Christmas when your kids leave out a plate of cookies for Santa, consider setting out a nice frosted mug of beer too.