For families who want to move their children away from the big, jolly man in the red suit with the white beard celebrating this feast can be a blessing. By developing our children’s understanding of the real historical person who inspired the familiar legend and traditions we open them up to the real Truth in the season.
In the fourth century there lived a man named St. Nicholas, who was the bishop of Myra, Lycia; this ancient land is now part of Turkey.
St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia and the special protector of children. So how do we celebrate his feast?
Well, on December 6th…
Of course! It’s obviously going to take an extra level of goodness to truly celebrate the him – so it may be a bit of a burden expecting this to last for an indefinite period. Perhaps the day before, the eve of his feast? There should be exemplary behaviour – of being obedient, listening, telling the truth, saying prayers, asking permission along with “please” and “thank you.” No quarreling between brothers and sisters. No hitting people. No breaking things. No whining……phew! I could go on and on!
Of course the ideal thing is for children to be good at all times. But a period of special effort to welcome the feast is necessary I think. St. Nicholas’s gifts would show approval of this kind of conduct (and isn’t that a good thing to have at the begining of this frantic period?).
Say your prayers
This was said above, but I’m repeating it here. In the next couple of days I will be including a free printout of a children’s prayer to Saint Nicholas, focusing on all his good attributes and how we can mimic them. You may want to do this only on the eve and his feast day, or as a novena in the nine days before.
Leave out shoes
Or boots! Either one will do. But the night before they must be left out for St Nicholas to come and leave his gifts in.
There are no presents for the grown-ups though, unfortunately. This is a children’s feast.
Leave out food for the donkey too!
Preparing some carrots and potatoes for St. Nicholas’s donkey is always a good idea. When St. Nicholas sees that children are kind to his donkey, he will think: “This is a good little child; they’re offering a snack to my tired donkey.”
Read them a book
Here’s a list of books that would be good to read your little ones in all the excitement.
But what does he leave in the shoes?
He might leave gold, chocolate coins.
According to legend, in the community that St. Nicholas served, there lived a very poor man who could not afford to give a dowry of any kind for his three daughters. St. Nicholas secretly gave all three dowries so that these young girls could be saved from shame. This is said to have originated the custom of giving presents in secret on the eve of December 6, the day of St. Nicholas.
He might leave a crozier…
..or at least a candy cane that represents his crozier, the staff a bishop carries.
A small toy or treasure…
A prayer card or other religious item.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, just redirect.
Let me know if your family already celebrate this great feast in the comments below. It would be fantastic if you followed me on social media – I’d love to hear about your experiences of the feast. As always, please subscribe to get future posts so we can join together in developing our Domestic Churchs. In the meantime…