Those who don't know his background, here's a little bit of his story:
St. Nicholas was born in the 3rd century in Myra, a port on the Mediterranean Sea. His wealthy and devout Christian parents left him in an orphan from a young age, and his uncle, a bishop in the Church, raised him. Nicholas gave up his full inheritance to the poor and then devoted his life to God, becoming the Bishop of Myra while still a young man. He was imprisoned for his faith, defended it at the Council of Nicea once released, and was known as Nicholas the Wonderworker due to many miracles that were believed to be a result of his intercessions. Many stories are told of his generosity, his love for children, and his steadfastness in his faith. I encourage you to learn more about him as we celebrate St. Nicholas' Feast Day this coming Thursday.
(I also learned a new story yesterday from Carrots for Michaelmas' post on St. Nicholas. I don't want to ruin it, so go read it - it'll probably surprise you, too!)
We will be celebrating with our annual filling of the shoes, a custom which began in Europe, where children (and in our house, adults, too) place their shoes outside their doors the evening before. The next morning they find their shoes filled with sweet treats and maybe a small present or two. We tell our boys that Mama and Daddy fill the shoes to stay away from my one beef with Santa Claus (the whole lying to your kid part), and we tell them the legendary story of the Saint that is tied to this particular tradition. The story goes that Nicholas heard of a poor man who was penniless and couldn't afford his three daughter's dowry. Not wanting these girls to end up unmarried and without a reputable income, Nicholas came in the middle of the night and dropped three bags of gold coins into the house. Some variations say the coins were tossed down the chimney and landed in the stocking drying by the fire.
This year I think I will also be trying out this recipe for St. Nicholas Spice Cookies from Kitchen Stewardship. They look super yummy, and I'm excited for another tradition to add to our stocks.
Veggie Tales actually did a pretty good job in their version: St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving, is perfect for tiny minds to wrap around. It's a favorite in our house, and the theme, nicely secured in a memorable song, has stuck well in my son's mind, "I can give because He gave." And that is the lesson I would like my children to take away from St. Nicholas and this Season where we focus not only on receiving, but on giving.
The tiny break in the simplicity of the Advent Season helps to give us a taste of the joy and celebration that we will have when we celebrate Christmas Day in just a few weeks. It helps young and old minds grasp the fulfillment of anticipation in a small way, and for us, is a fantastic way to honor and learn about a great and faithful man.
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