Today is St. Nicholas Day!

St. Nicholas Artist: Susan Seals All rights reserved Exclusive print in StNicholasCenter.org shop

Did you know that?

If you have young children at home and you’ve been struggling to balance Santa Claus with the celebration of Jesus this Christmas, St. Nicholas Day is one way to strike that balance. (Of course, this blog post would have been much more helpful to you a week ago… but maybe next year?  Or you could put it to use later this week?) Anyway… 😉

I’m getting most of this information I’m about to pass along to you from a wonderful website all about St. Nicholas Day called: StNicholasCenter.org.

We know that the true story of Santa Claus begins with a boy named Nicholas, who was born during the third century in a Greek village that is now on the southern coast of Turkey.  This is Nicholas’ story, and how he came to be known as St. Nick.

Nicholas’ wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers.

Both before prison and after Nicholas was released, many amazing stories of generosity, answered prayers and miracles are credited to him.  The most famous story told is about a poor man with three daughters.

In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.

This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus’ life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.

Nicholas died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).

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.

So Why Celebrate St. Nicholas Day?

  • To learn about the true Santa Claus and Father Christmas: St. Nicholas, a man of faith who lived his life in devotion to Christ
  • To focus on giving more than receiving: St. Nicholas cared for the needy
  • To emphasize small treats and family fun: St. Nicholas loved children
  • To provide a bit of special festivity early in the waiting weeks of Advent: St. Nicholas points to Jesus, the heart of Christmas
  • To offer a spiritual dimension to gift giving
  • To tell the story of a Christian saint, whose model life inspires compassion and charity
  • To honor St. Nicholas honors the Christ Child who selflessly gave the greatest gift of all—himself

 

All of the information above comes straight from StNicholasCenter.org

There are Free St. Nicholas Day Activities here:

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/activities-to-print/

And TONS of ideas to celebrate the day here:

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/activities/

 

I really do have a fondness for Santa Claus and the meaning behind his generosity.  For years, my dad was our town Santa and once James and I became parents, we really struggled with how to balance Santa and Jesus.  My dad died before he could be Santa for our children, so we decided to leave Santa completely out of the picture.  That worked until our entire family was together for Christmas Eve, and Santa was coming for all of the other children… Eeeks… So, then we started a tradition that we continue to this day – we  “play a Secret Christmas Game” where stockings appear.  😉

I love the idea of celebrating the giving spirit of St. Nick early and apart from Christmas morning – and the fact that the focus is on blessing others instead of hoarding for ourselves.  Wish I had known about this idea when my big ones were little. It’s a beautiful and fun balance of Santa’s generosity, blessing others with gift giving, and reminds us of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place – the gift giving of God to us in the Greatest Gift of all ~ our Salvation through Jesus Christ!!!  Thank you, Jesus!!!

Happy Sunday, and Happy St. Nicholas Day, my friends!

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I'm a Jesus-loving, husband-loving, family-loving minister's wife and mom to two teenagers, making our home and serving our Lord in the Mississippi Delta. I study, teach, speak, and write for the greatest Boss in the universe. "Faith, Family, Food, Fun, and Living Life brewed in the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place": That's what you'll find at SmellingCoffee.com