Saint Nicholas, lover of the poor and patron of children, is a model of how Christians are meant to live. Known for acts of charity, he often left gifts of food or money for the poor in the dark of night so that no one but God saw his good works.
As parents of young children, we are increasingly interested in learning how other Christian families live the spirit of Advent and Christmas in their homes. We know some amazing families who serve as terrific role models, and one tradition many incorporate is celebrating the legendary generosity of Saint Nicholas, 4th-century Bishop of Myra (Asia Minor/Turkey), on his feast day of December 6 with small gifts. Christmas is then reserved for the celebration of Jesus’ birth and family gift giving.
A resource providing a wealth of information on this saint is the Saint Nicholas Center. The center aims to “bring Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians together in common purpose — to help people understand and appreciate the original St. Nicholas, the only real Santa Claus.”
The Church’s tradition of honoring saints can help us keep the true meaning of Christmas, and I think you’ll find the Saint Nicholas Center is quite helpful in providing ideas to foster traditions within your family as well — and not just traditions around gift giving and receiving but traditions centering around charitable acts for the poor amongst us. As stated at American Catholic, “The critical eye of modern history makes us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding St. Nicholas. But perhaps we can utilize the lesson taught by his legendary charity, look deeper at our approach to material goods in the Christmas season, and seek ways to extend our sharing to those in real need.”
In our home, we celebrated by reading a terrific Saint Nicholas children’s book and setting out stockings to be filled with special goodies. We also plan to visit an elderly friend and take her a “stocking-full” of goodies as well. How are you honoring Saint Nicholas today?