With Christmas Day itself (December 25) reserved for family and busy with the celebration of Christ, primary gift-giving chores in Poland are assigned to Saint Nicholas (Święty Mikołaj), who gets the holiday season rolling by showing up three weeks early on December 6th - ‘Dzień Świętego Mikołaja,’ or Saint Nicholas Day. In Polish tradition, Ol’ Saint Nick (or ‘Mick’ as the case may be) isn’t a portly pipe-smoker who lives at the North Pole, but an actual dignified saint who comes down from heaven in a rather regal purple and gold robe and bishop’s hat, carrying a crosier (you know, one of those staffs shaped like a candy-cane) on the anniversary of his death. In the run-up to Dzień Świętego Mikołaja, eager children write letters to the Saint requesting the one, maybe two (if they’ve been really good) gifts they most desire that year and put the letter outside on the windowsill so the old codger can drop by and pick up their request during the night. On the 6th, Polish children awake to discover Mikołaj’s benevolence with a gift under their pillow or next to the bed, which they rush to show their parents, who then rush them to get ready and out the door, since it's still a school and work day for some reason. Of course opportunities abound to see Old Saint Mikołaj in the flesh on this day, particularly at festive locations like Christmas markets, preschools and shopping malls. Ho ho ho.