Are your children planning to write to Saint Nicholas, Santa or Pére Noel this year? Are they dreaming of all the toys they may get? Is the excitement already building?
I’m looking forward to it all with a little, well, dread. In the recent years my oldest daughter has been aware when her birthday is coming in early November; oh my word! The excitement means that she is awake each night, coming into or bedroom to tell us that it is the next day – when it isn’t for an entire week – and inevitably waking us up. It isn’t just before her birthday either; as her’s in the half term she has her party after the half term. This means the excitement continues the week afterwards too.
Oh, and her sisters is a fortnight before her birthday. She’s excited for her. So that makes about a month of excitement.
Christmas. It’s a whole other level of excitement that little people can pop over. Christmas trees. A house full of shiny, sparkly decorations designed specifically to entice even though they’re not meant to touch. Sugar treats. Promises of mountains of presents….. Yet in all of this we expect them, need them, to behave.
I could resort to the lies we all tell our children in the run up to Christmas to extort good behaviour from them – my husband used to have his granny shout up the chimney to the elf who lived there. The elf would of course report back to Father Christmas on any good or bad behaviour.
That’s sweet, but I wanted the focus to be on their good efforts; such as their raising money for a charity. I also think it’s necessary to make it clear what we meant by ‘good behaviour’. After all, when you have an appraisal at work they tell you what you are doing well and then, if they’re a good boss, give specific ways to improve.
Added to all this, because I don’t want much (heavy sarcasm), I wanted to emphasise St Nicholas as Saint. Not the God of Coca-Cola.
Well, all this wanting gave me an idea to save my, our, sanity! A letter from Saint Nicholas. Here is ours; maybe you want to use it as a template to make your own.
Dear Les Petites Filles*
It’s been so nice seeing you both grow up over the last year. La Petite Fille, I hear that you have so many words now, such a chatterbox. La Plus Grande Fille you’re so confident in your times tables. Is it true that you’re both drawing some lovely pictures? Your mummy and daddy are so proud of you.
Throughout the world people know me as Santa Clause, but I understand that your mummy and daddy are teaching you the truth about me. As you know it’s my feast day today, so I have left some little gifts so that you understand me and the most important part of Christmas.
In your shoes are some gold coins; these coins are chocolate, but when I was on Earth I gave real gold coins to families that were very poor. I didn’t want to take the credit for this, as I was just sharing the love of Jesus with others, so guess what I did? I threw the coins down the chimney so nobody knew who delivered it! Yes, that’s why they say that on Christmas Eve I come down the chimney. So when you receive the gold coins I’ve left for you think about giving to others and, just as importantly, how and why you give.
You’ll also find a little candy cane, as it represents what I was when I was alive. I was a bishop of the Church. It looks like a shepherds crook doesn’t it? That’s because we bishops are meant to steer the flock, all the believers in the Church, to follow the right path to Jesus.
I still do this in heaven through my prayers. It’s an honour for me that God would let me take part in helping people come to Him in heaven. I’m sure one day I will meet you there.
Something else you’ll find in your shoe is a prayer card to the Holy Family. At the end of Advent that’s what we find, a family made holy by the birth of Jesus who is God. It is the most precious gift you may receive, and was given to you and all the world.
You see God truly did become a man. Not only a man, but a tiny, vulnerable baby – just like you were. He was also a little child – just like you are. You only know a few things about his life before He was a man, but one thing you do know is that He did just as His mummy Mary and His foster father Joseph asked Him to do.
Sometimes it’s very hard to be good isn’t it? But I’ll let you into a secret; the more you practise the easier being good is. So this advent I’d like you to do what Jesus did and be obedient to your parents.
When mummy and daddy ask you to clean up all your toys do it without arguing with them. After all you’re very lucky you have them, there are many children in the world who don’t have the toys you have.
If during the day you feel angry and upset and don’t know what to do, take a deep breath and say this little prayer; Jesus please help me to be good like you were good. Then wait for a little while for His peace to be with you.
Some children don’t get a lot of food; it’s why when I was alive I used to leave gifts of food for poor families. So, each night say thank you to God for the food you have and eat up all your dinner.
When they ask you to go to bed give your parents a sweet kiss goodnight and go without any trouble. You know they’re only asking you because they know it’s good for you.
I understand that you are following my example by saving to give to others in need; I know how much this makes Jesus happy and it makes me happy too. I’m sure on Christmas morning you’ll wake to find lots of gifts under the tree and a sense of the greatest gift in your heart. I am praying for you,
All my love and through the Grace of God
Following on from my earlier posts (if you look in the menu bar under the tags Christmastide, Advent and The Feast of Saint Nicholas you’ll find them all there) I’ve written the letter so that it points to Saint Nicholas being a real man, in heaven and how much he loved Jesus. I’m going to be printing this out, signing it in St Nicholas’ name and putting it in a red envelope. Then I’ll leave it with their shoe gifts as tomorrow we will be celebrating St Nicholas feast again.
I think I might do something else this year and pin it up somewhere so we can refer back to it throughout the season. “What was it Saint Nicholas asked you to do again? AH yes, here it is. He said…”
The year before last was our first time celebrating it and it was so special. My oldest asked me “Do other people celebrate Saint Nicholas like this?” We’d spoken about it being the Eve of the feast and put out a storm jar lantern and wreath that I’d made for it the morning before she went to school. Clearly in her excitement she’d been talking to her friends at school about it, and they didn’t know of the feast.
I respondEd, “Well they might not celebrate it. We do because we’re Catholic, so we know the truth of who Saint Nicholas is.”
In a world that is increasingly hostile to the faith it’s good to hold close these joyous feasts like a warm, cosy blanket. As they grow I hope that these strands of faith and truth that are being embedded in their hearts will strengthen them through adversity.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, especially if you try it yourself.
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*I don’t want to refer to my daughters by name on the blog hence the titles used here reflect that we live in France.