Friday, December 6, 2013

Celebrating St. Nicholas

image from Google
Today is the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, Patron Saint of Children (among many other things). I've mentioned on here before that we never celebrated St. Nick's Day as kids, it wasn't "a thing" where we grew up.  But up here, in Wisconsin, children await the coming of St. Nick and while, yes, it's the goodies that get them excited, we're trying to make sure that it's the lessons that stay with them.

So, who was Saint Nicholas?
"In the West Nicholas is most widely known as the patron saint of children. Many of his stories tell of children rescued from calamity and returned to the care and keeping of their families. In France the most familiar story, both told and sung, is of three little children lured into the clutches of an evil butcher and rescued by St. Nicholas. Other stories, as well, tell of children who disappeared, were kidnaped, fell into a well, or suffered some other disaster-all to be delivered through the good offices of St. Nicholas. These accounts of a child forcibly taken from parents, followed by a time of grieving and despair, then the miraculous return of the child, have profound and universal appeal which makes Nicholas the much valued Guardian of Children. It is no wonder he is the beloved patron saint of children." Source: St. Nicholas Center
image from Google
And why does he bring gifts?
"Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need. One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver." Source: St. Nicholas Center
image from Google
The boys put out their shoes (and ours!) by the fireplace last night (Hutton put out three pairs "just in case") and were delighted to see that St. Nick left some treasures for them this morning - an orange, a piece of chocolate, a new book for the family, and in their stockings, Christmas jammies. 

This tradition is relatively new to me, but as the kids are getting older I see the importance of linking the magical gift-bringing Santa Claus to the miraculous gift-giving St. Nicholas.

Happy St. Nicholas Day, everyone!

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