The apple tradition of San Nicolò

pupazzo di San Nicolò

Long ago, the tradition of the festival of San Nicolo (the patron saint of Lecco) went like this. On December 6th children would typically receive gifts, but aside from gifts they would also receive a puppet-like figure or pupazzo of San Nicolò. The pupazzo was made from a big red apple as the body and a walnut for the face, on which sat a red hat. Eyes were drawn on the face and a white beard attached. According to legend, San Nicolò met 3 children who were so dreadfully poor that he presented them with 3 beautiful red apples. During the night, the apples turned into gold and the children became very rich. A proverbial rhyme in dialect ties together the three important days of December 6, 7 and 8.

San Nicolò ci porta i pomm
Sant’Ambroeus i e fa coeus,
la Madonna i ha pelaa
e i bambin i ha mangià!

St. Nick brings the apples
St. Ambrogio cooks them
The Madonna peels the apples
And the children eat them!

San Nicolò is Dec. 6th, Sant’Ambrogio the 7th, and la Madonna (Immaculate Conception) is the 8th. Let the festivities begin!

And here’s a saying for Sant’Ambrogio: Senza neve a Sant’Ambrogio, l’inverno sarà mogio.
Without snow on Sant’Ambrogio, the winter will be subdued.


7 thoughts on “The apple tradition of San Nicolò

  1. Pingback: The Krampus: Santa’s not so little helper | Rubber Slippers In Italy

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  3. Anonymous

    Ha ha:-) We were at a St. Nicholas party today and my son came home with the same apple and walnut figure. I must say that yours is much better than his:-)


    1. Rowena Post author

      Oh you are too kind! I remember pretty much slapping it together as soon as my husband told me about it. It’s not something that he’s ever done, but the tradition is too cute for words.



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