Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Feast of Saint Nicholas

I am, sadly, late in posting this. Thanksgiving was so late this year that I'm struggling a bit to stay on top of ALL that happens just after it! I usually have a week, or at least a few days to prepare, but this year it is all happening rather suddenly.

That being said, this Friday, December 6 is the The Feast of Saint Nicholas, which is one of my favorite days of the Advent season.  So I'm going to throw a LOT of idea at you in the hopes that if you decide to observe and celebrate it, you'll find at least a few of them doable. I am not even sure what our plans are at this point, though I did pick up a cute pair of seasonal socks for Kate last night, along with a little bag of gold coins. I've got my eye on a few books I'm considering adding to my personal library, but I'm going to wait until after a make a quick trip to Charlottesville tomorrow before I make any final decisions. If I do buy them I'll order them on Friday at best! And before I ramble on too long, here's a bit about the history of this feast day, as well as ideas that you can borrow from to observe and celebrate it!

~ Enjoy!

HISTORY - from the St. Nicholas Center
As we wait for God to become incarnate, we look to the whole body of Christ, past and present, for models of embodied faith. The commemoration of saints has been a part of Christian worship since the second century.

Today we remember Saint Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra in the province of Lycia during the fourth century. Very little is known about his life, but he is remembered as a man of great faith and compassion. He was also a fierce advocate for those who had been unjustly condemned. But he left behind no writings: the legends surrounding his life are all we have.

Nicholas is most well known in the West as the beloved patron saint of children and gift-giving. His connection to the American character of Santa Claus is faint, but it can be traced. According to tradition, Nicholas’ parents died when he was young, leaving him a large sum of money. With his inheritance, Nicholas practiced charity, helping those in need.

One legend in particular illustrates his generosity: a family in his community was desperate; the father had lost all of his money and had been unable to find husbands for his three daughters. The daughters were in danger of being given over to prostitution or another form of degradation when, one night, Nicholas appeared at their home. He tossed three bags of gold into the open window (or down the chimney, in some versions)—thereby saving them from a terrible fate. This tale is probably the source of his eventual connection to the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas.

The custom of giving gifts on Saint Nicholas’ feast day probably originated in Europe among Protestants. The Reformation had led many Protestants to all but abandon the remembrance of the saints. But Saint Nicholas remained a popular figure, especially among children, who received gifts in his name on December 6. The custom spread with immigration to North America when Dutch children told their English-speaking friends about “Sinter Klaas,” the bishop in red vestments who brought them surprises on his feast day. The American mispronunciation—Santa Claus—eventually took on a life of its own. This jolly Saint Nick also delivered gifts through the chimney, but on Christmas rather than the saint’s day. He wore a red suit rather than liturgical vestments, though he still vaguely resembled the old depictions of Nicholas, which showed him with bald head and full beard.

Aside from the obvious disparities between Saint Nicholas and the secular Santa Claus, perhaps the most poignant difference between them can be seen in the nature of the gifts they give. While Santa has his bundle of toys, the gift that Saint Nicholas gives is nothing short of freedom from poverty and desperation. The life of Saint Nicholas is an example of faith made flesh in actions of true charity.

Ways you can observed The Feast of St. Nicholas with your family
- Collect gently used toys no longer needed and donate them to a local women's shelter.
- Or, make a donation to Toys For Tots
- Participate in Operation Christmas Child

- Have your children leave their shoes by the fireplace or at a designated location in your home on the night before the feast day (December 5).  After they have gone to bed fill them with gold coins (Affiliate Link), if you don't need a pound, I've seen individual bags for $1 at Target and Walmart. You can also include an orange, some nuts and a new pair of Christmas socks, or a new Christmas ornament for each child for the tree. Other ideas could include a chocolate Santa or a new Santa mug for drinking hot chocolate in during the season.These are the items we traditionally included when the girls were younger. In our homeschooling years it was also traditionally the day that we added seasonal Christmas books to our home library.

Here are a few suggestion:

Books Related to Saint Nicholas 
(All listings are Affiliate Links)
- The Real Santa Claus
- Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend
- The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters To Christmas
- Saint Nicholas And The Nine Gold Coins
- The Miracle of Saint Nicholas
- The Legend of St. Nicholas

Books Related to Santa Claus
(All listings are Affiliate Links)
- Yes, Virginia There Is A Santa Claus
- The Santa Claus Chronicles: Heartwarming Tales From A Real Life Santa
- Jolly Old Santa Claus
- Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets
- Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets Coloring Book
- Dear Santa: Children's Christmas Letters and Wishes 1870-1920
- The Night Before Christmas
- The Night Before Christmas - My favorite edition!
- The Night Before Christmas - illustrated by Gennady Spirin, another favorite!
- The Book of Santa Claus - beautiful vintage illustrations!

We also include movies from time to time, and while there are any number of movies related to Santa Claus (just Google!), I always preferred movies such as these; (I'll be posting a list of my favorite seasonal /Christmas movies this weekend!
Movies Related to Santa Claus
(Unless noted, All listings are Affiliate Links)
- Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus - Beautiful Movie
- Christmas Story (not the one with the leg lamp!) - Available free if you have Prime! (Non-Affiliate)

Food for The Feast Day
- Make a Candy Cane Coffee Cake for breakfast, or this Cherry Cheese version.
- Or, you might prefer St. Nicholas Day Donuts, or a Mini Stack of Santa Pancakes.
- We traditionally made these cute Santa pancakes!
- Along with at hot mug of Saint Nicholas Hot Cocoa, you could also make these to give as gifts!
- Make some Nutter Butter St. Nicholas cookies, so cute!
- This Miter Cake is lovely and would be nice if you were hosting a St. Nicholas Day gathering with friends!
- We made Santa Shakes for years, but for the life of me I cannot find the recipe, but this Candy Cane Shake is similar, and would be fun to share while watching a special movies

Special Touches
- Join together for a Saint Nicholas feast day devotional, here are some resources to assist you.
- You might also want to include, A Prayer to Saint Nicholas.
- Jessica at Shower of Roses has made these lovely images of Saint Nicholas to adorn your gold coins with.
- Make this cute Saint Nicholas ornament.

More Ideas and Inspiration!
You can find more information about St. Nicholas including ways to celebrate at The St, Nicholas Center, as well as Catholic Icing.


pam said...

So much great information on St. Nickolas! Thank you.

Yesterday the children sliced oranges and then dried the oranges and cranberries, and this morning they strung them on bakers twine and hung them throughout the house! This week has been great incorporating many of your Advent ideas.

Kimberly Lottman said...

This just makes my heart happy! :)