Celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas

Well, I’m back!  Mary is taking off another week from blog writing (but don’t worry, she’ll be back next week with something spectacular!).  She has asked me to expand on St. Nicholas and some ideas to celebrate his feast day on December 6th.  What a glorious time of year to bring the Faith to life for our children!

There are many exaggerated legends associated with this great man, but we do know some indisputable facts about his life.  St. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints, among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. He is the patron saint of children and is said to have been represented by Christian artists more frequently than any other saint, aside from Our Lady.  In order to understand where this popularity comes from, we can look at this saint’s history.

First off, St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (present day Turkey).  He lived during the Fourth Century, a time when Christians, under Emperor Diocletian, were being persecuted left and right for the Faith. Imagine the danger St. Nicholas was in on a daily basis just because of his position within the Church. In fact, at one point in his life he suffered imprisonment for the Faith. His wealthy parents died when he was a young man, leaving him very well off.  Instead of spending the money on himself, he decided to devote his inheritance to works of charity.  He was a champion for the poor!  Throwing bags of gold through people’s windows was a common practice for St. Nicholas. I believe his acts of generosity and amazing faith contribute to St. Nicholas’s popularity even today.  What an awesome saint to teach our children about and encourage them to imitate!

The tradition in our house, as in many homes across the US and Europe, is to leave the kids’ shoes by the door.   Saint Nicholas comes at night and fills them with treats.

Candy Canes remind us of the staff that Bishop Nicholas used to carry.

Chocolate Coins represent the money St. Nicholas used to help people who lived in poverty or were in need.

Real Coins help us to recall one story told about Nicholas. He was acquainted with a family who could not afford to pay the dowry for their three daughters marriages. One night Bishop Nicholas passed their window and threw in a bag of gold coins.  The coins landed in the shoes of the oldest daughter. There was enough money to pay her dowry.  In subsequent years, he did the same thing for the younger sisters.

Apples remind our boys of what Bishop Nicholas said to any boy who felt angry and liked to fight.  He would tell them stories of St. Michael the Archangel and how he used his strength to fight only evil dragons. He would give the boys an apple to help them remember to fight only evil.

Oranges remind our daughters of a bit of wisdom he told to a little girl. Bishop Nicholas said,  “This orange shines just like a little sun. When the beautiful sun shines in the sky, it shines on everyone. And it warms everyone on the earth—no one more and no one less. So, everyone loves the sun, and everyone feels full of joy whenever they see it.  You can be like the sun, too. Just give your love to everyone. Then you will fill other people’s hearts with love. This shining orange will help you remember what it feels like to share your good things with others. It tastes sweet like sunshine and like love.”

Nicholas is a saint surrounded by stories. Most of these are about his generosity and the wonders that sprang up all around him. He is one of the mysterious gift-givers who hover around the Christmas season.  If you read my last post on Advent Traditions, you will know how important I think the Corporal Works of Mercy are.  What better way to celebrate St. Nicholas’s feast day than by doing something for the poor or lonely?   Make a donation to the local food bank, take some blankets or warm socks to your local homeless shelter, help an elderly neighbor shovel their sidewalks and driveway, or write letters to a home-bound  relative.  As the children enjoy their treats, may they remember to be kind and generous, fill other people’s hearts with love and share good things with as many people as they can.

Lord, you make this day special
with the memory of the good bishop Nicholas.
He praised you in all the wonders he worked,
he thanked you in all the gifts he shared with the poor.
May we have ears like Saint Nicholas to hear when any are in need,
and hands always ready to help and share.
Blessed are you, O Lord, in all your saints. Amen

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!


NOTE: All facts about St. Nicholas were taken from Butler’s Lives of the Saints.

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