Thursday, December 6, 2007

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Tradition says...

Early in the Advent season people celebrate a feast that has been popular for centuries in Christian countries, especially in Northern Europe. In our over-commercialized society, this holiday gives us a good "teaching moment" to remind children that Jolly Santa Claus, is, in fact, Saint Nicholas, a fourth century bishop of the city of Myra in what is now Turkey.

Saint Nicholas was renowned for his great kindness and his generous aid to those in distress. Among the kind and miraculous acts attributed to him are saving three young girls from prostitution by secretly providing them with dowries, raising three murdered boys from the dead, and saving sailors caught in stormy seas. For these reasons, he is considered the patron saint of children, unmarried girls, and sailors, among others.

Traditional celebrations of Saint Nicholas Day in Northern Europe included gifts left in children's shoes (the origin of our American Christmas stockings). Good children receive treats - candies, cookies, apples and nuts, while naughty children receive switches or lumps of coal. Sometimes coins were left in the shoes, reminiscent of the life-saving dowries the saint provided. Today - especially in families of German extraction - children still put a shoe outside their bedroom doors on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, and expect to find candy and coins or small gifts in their shoe on December 6th.

I was first exposed to the tradition of St. Nicholas Day last year when we did a community service project at a school for underprivileged children! We went to the school the day before St. Nicholas was to come and decorated the classrooms with gold tinsel and left backpacks filled with gifts and toys for the kids. In many cases this was the only Christmas gift some of these kids would receive. We came back on St. Nicholas Day and saw the expressions on the kid's faces when they received their gifts! It was so cool to be apart of! We got to read them the story of St. Nicholas and spend some time with them. It was very special and certainly made me more appreciative of all that I have been blessed with.

This year, St. Nicholas visited me at work and left chocolates and speculoos for us to enjoy! Thanks St. Nick!

1 comment:

  1. ginnie8:43 PM

    Thanks for posting the history of St. Nicholas! The reading to the kids went GREAT again this year. It is obvious that the state of the American educational crisis is not coming from the two schools I've been witness to through the St. Nicholas program. The elementary kids are so well behaved, respectful and happy! They loved their little gifts, which for some, might be all they get this year. Tippa, we missed you this year, but at least we had you in spirit!! Happy Holidays!