Saint Nicholas Day
Early in the Advent season 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 the life-saving doweries 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.
In some households the father of the family may dress up as Saint Nicholas on the eve of his feast. He comes in, sometimes with his sidekick, Krampus or Black Peter, and helps each child examine his conscience. He admonishes the bad and rewards the good. If your family enjoys theatrics, this is a wonderful opportunity early in Advent to inspire children to amend their ways in preparation for the coming King. (Your family might get together with other families with young children and celebrate together.)
Who's St. Nicholas...
Nicholas, meaning "the victorious hero", was the son of a wealthy family, in a port town called Patara in Turkey. Nicholas spent a very happy childhood in this well-to-do environment. However, his parents died unexpectedly when he was quite young. He inherited the entire family fortune. After wondering for a while what to do with all this money he decided to help the poor people around him. Sharing his wealth with the people who were in need not only made him content, but made all those people happy. He even sold his house and lived in a smaller one.
The people of Myra were so poor that parents were not even able to take care of their children. Children were left on their own in the streets. Adults who didn't have a job were begging all day long for a piece of bread. The sick, old and lonely people were leading a desperate life in the streets. Father Christmas, who was aware of all this misery, founded an orphanage for the children, a kitchen for the poor, a hospital for the sick and a nursing home for the old.
Where St. Nicholas is prominent, his day, not Christmas, is the primary gift giving day. Parties may be held on the eve, December 5th, and shoes or stockings left for St. Nicholas to fill during the night. Children will find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies. St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself.
Friendship, brotherhood, love, peace, tolerance and benevolence are symbolized by Father Christmas. We should love and help each other and share without discriminating on the basis of religion, race, and language.
and of-course , gOOgle...