Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Today we are celebrating St. Nicholas Day at our house.

Now, we don't do Santa Clause around here (as far as encouraging our children to believe in him is concerned) but we do recognize that the modern day character is based on a historical figure who was very real indeed! The man, St. Nicholas, was the Bishop of Myrna in the earlier 300's AD. By all accounts, he was a very devoted Christian who gave gifts to those in need as a means of showing them the love of Christ. There is an excellent website on St. Nicholas which offers quite a bit of information about the man, as well as craft and game ideas and a very intriguing page questioning What St. Nicholas really looked like. (You ought to check that one out. Wild!)

While we don't want to do Santa, we don't avoid him either. (He's a fun character. He doesn't bug me.) Rather, we'd like our children to know where the idea of Santa originated. In this case, it points us to a man who sought to point others to Christ! So we mark the day by learning about him, remembering who he was and what he did, and - more importantly - by focusing on the idea of being grateful for what we have and learning how to look around us to find others who may be in need and considering how we might bless them.

This year I tried to add a couple of new titles about Saint Nicholas to our home library. I found My Christmas Stocking, by Crystal Bowman which was ok (think: 18-24 months.) However, it's not terribly descriptive. It gives the basic idea that there was once a man who cared for the poor to show them God's love. This book seeks to explain the use of stockings to small children in simplistic rhyme which is a great way to introduce the concept of Saint Nicholas, but it doesn't go quite deep enough (in my opinion.)

The better book (and the one we already owned) is St. Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend, by Julie Stiegemeyer.

This one tells the story of how Nicholas gave money to a family who had several daughters, all in need of a dowry so that they could marry. It explains that he was a very kind and generous man and tried to gift people secretly, at night, so that they would be blessed without knowing who it was that was blessing them. This one is perfectly suited for ages 3 and up and we like this one very much.Unless and until I find a better title, this one goes on my Highly Recommended list.

In honor of today we've invited some friends to join us for a Saint Nicholas Day Party. We have some games to play with the kids, stories to tell, books to read (ya think!?) and food to eat! Looking forward to the celebration and taking some time out to reflect on how we might show the love of Christ to others in our own lives. It's something to think about during this busy season. Meaningful and fun. I'm thankful for this tradition.

Do you and your family happen to celebrate St. Nicholas Day? If so, what are some things that you do in honor of the occasion? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts and gather some new ideas for next year if you feel inclined to share.


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Yep, we read one of our St. Nicholas Day books yesterday and will read the other one today. And I'll also put some chocolate coins in the girls' shoes/socks/something tonight. Fun and meaningful--I love it!

Here's my post from last year:

Audrey said...

There is a short animated film I saw about St. Nicholas once. It's called Nicholas - The Boy Who Became Santa. Gloria Whelan also has a children's book about him. My mom owns it but I don't recall ever reading it:

In my house we always put our shoes out the night before and St. Nicholas comes and puts a Christmas peppermint patty into each shoe!

Barbara H. said...

What a neat idea! We handled Santa the same way -- we didn't want the boys to "believe" in him, but we treated him as any other fairy tale character. We did talk about Nicholas but I don't recall that we read any books about him. That second book looks really good.

Christielulu said...

We do all our Santa stuff at the beginning of the month to celebrate St. Nicholas Day and this is also when we do our stockings. The kids get some candy and an item they need in their stocking. We have Santa pancakes/waffles for a meal and read our St. Nicholas book. We put out all the Santa decor, plates, napkins and then it is put away for the rest of the month to focus on Jesus and the nativity. Most of my ideas have come from the book "Celebrating the Christian Year" by Martha Zimmerman.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

I'm wondering if this is a trend in our generation, Carrie. My parents and many of their generation were freaked out about Santa, with the worry that once the kids found out he wasn't real, they would mistrust that God was real. I think this is a bit patronizing to kids, who understand the difference between truth and legend better than some adults. Children don't actually think animals can talk either, but what if they could? Imagination on both counts can be helpful in understanding truth.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

Good article, BTW.

Krista said...

I really want to do a St. Nicholas Day thing with my boys. Sadly (or not! ;) they are at my parents last night and tonight so that won't happen this year.
My mom brought the tradition with her from being a student in Germany. There you put your shoes outside your door and in the morning find them filled with things like nuts, peppermints, and oranges. Or coal if you've been bad!
I think this is a great way to separate St. Nicholas/Santa from Christmas. :)

Janet said...

My daughter's birthday is on St Nicholas' Day, and we had a little party for her that included chocolate coins as party favors and a retelling of the legend about the dowry. We've read the Stiegemeyer book this year too and really enjoyed it.

Stephanie Kay said...

I forgot about a St. Nicholas celebration. I think that's one of the gaps in our Christmas book collection. Thanks for reminding me!

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

When our kids were little we always put candy in their shoes for St. Nicholas Day -- preferably chocolate coins to tie in with the story of St. Nicholas and the three dowerless maidens.

We also have a book that we would read from during the octave of the feast, The Twenty Miracles of Saint Nicolas, written and illustrated by Bernarda Bryson.

(These stories are popular legends from times past, rather than historical accounts.)

Now a widow, I live with one of my adult sons. On December 6th I gave him a bag of chocolate coins (because you're never too old for chocolate), and each night we're reading aloud three of the stories from this book.


Litterairy said...

When I was growing up we celebrated St. Nicholas' Day. It is my Grandmother's birthday and since she is first generation American of German parents, it was a significant holiday in her family. She always had all of her local grandchildren over for a party where we all performed our latest piano pieces for her, played a game with puzzles she'd made from cutting up pages of a Christmas book, she'd get out her mother's porcelain doll (wigged with her mother's hair) and childhood book of German stories for us to look at. She taught us about St. Nicholas and told us stories of parties she attended as a child. Then we'd drink hot apple cider, eat cookies, and open party crackers. ~Amanda Swanson

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