Saint Nicholas, Patron Saint of Sailors – “May St. Nicholas Hold the Tiller”

st-nicholas-patron-saint-of-sailorsWe recently learned that good Saint Nicholas, long associated with Christmas and gift-giving, is also the patron saint of ships and sailors. The St. Nicholas Center notes: “Many ports, most notably in Greece, have icons of Nicholas, surrounded by ex-votos of small ships made of silver or carved of wood. Sailors returning safely from sea, place these in gratitude to St. Nicholas for protection received. In some places sailors, instead of wishing one another luck, say, “May St. Nicholas hold the tiller.”

They go on to say, “Saint Nicholas is said to be just about everyone’s saint; he is surely named the patron saint of more causes than any other saint. Nicholas has been chosen as the special protector or guardian of a great many classes of people, cities, churches, and even countries.”  St. Nicholas is the patron saint of gift giving and of children, as well as being the patron saint of prostitutes and thieves.  Sailors, being a generous lot, probably do not mind sharing the patron saint, especially as they have several others anyway, including Saint Brendan, Saint Elmo, and St. Micheal among many others.  Clearly we sailors need all the help that we can get.

We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and in the new year, may St. Nicholas hold the tiller. Thanks to Dexter Donham for contributing to the post.

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4 Responses to Saint Nicholas, Patron Saint of Sailors – “May St. Nicholas Hold the Tiller”

  1. Louis Cohen says:

    In the Netherlands, St Nicholas arrives from Spain by steamboat with his slave, Black Pete.

  2. I am a regular reader of your blog.

    I am general secretary at the International Christian Maritime Association. Our concern is for the welfare and wellbeing of all seafarers without discrimination. Our Association’s members include 28 of the most prominent seafarers mission societies worldwide. We run more than 600 seafarers centres in global ports.

    I was wondering if you would mind listing ICMA among your list of links to non profits and associations.

    Kind Regards

    Hennie la Grange (Reverend)

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