Art by Susan Seals
Nicolai is the Scandinavian and Slavic form of the Russian boys name Nikolai, said the same, with only the c and k changed. This baby name means "people of victory," a very symbolic name, but can also be roughly translated as "victorious people" or "victor of the people." The origin is the Greek name Nicholas (Nikolaus), but Nicolai puts a fresh spin on an old favorite, updating it with a new nickname: Nico. Niklaus/Niclaus and Nikolaus/Nicolaus are two other rare variants, and Niccolai is an alternate spelling. The spelling Nikolai currently ranks at #641, Nicholas at #42, Nickolas at #551, Nicolas at #168, and Nikolas at #473. This spelling, Nicolai, remains unranked, and a total of 47 boys were given the name in 2011, which is down by 13 boys from 2010 and down 12 from 2009, but up quite a bit overall.
Good old St. Nick, who's favorite holiday is just over a week away, is still the most famous namesake. He was a 4th century Greek bishop of Myra, patron saint of Russia and Greece, and a handful of various cities. He was also patron saint of children, merchants, archers, thieves, pawnbrokers, students, wolves and sailors, depending on what country. His reputation for secretly giving gifts made him the inspiration for Santa. We just missed his feast day, which was December 6th, but we all know he's celebrated at Christmas time anyway. Maybe my memory is a little fuzzy of my childhood, but I remember at one point telling my mom I knew Santa wasn't real and that it was actually Saint Nicholas, but he died a long time ago, and that she was the one putting gifts under the tree.