06 Dec Celebrating the Life of Saint Nicholas
This Christmas, your house or yard may be decked out with Santa and his reindeer, but do you know the “man behind the myth?” Whether or not you “do Santa” in your house, Saint Nicholas himself is a guy worth getting to know!
St. Nicholas or “Santa” as most of us know him, is a legendary figure in Western culture who is known for giving gifts to “well-behaved” girls and boys on Christmas Day. Here’s where he came from, according to Wikipedia: “Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from Church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas (known in Dutch as Sinterklaas), merged with the English character Father Christmas to create the character known to Americans and the rest of the English-speaking world as “Santa Claus.“
Lessons in Giving from Saint Nicholas
Christmas is a season when we celebrate the ultimate gift of God in Emmanuel – “God with us.” Therefore, this is a time to celebrate the giving spirit, which Saint Nicholas became famous for.
According to the St. Nicholas Center website, “The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey.
His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering.
He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.“
A story has been told of three daughters who were poor, had no dowry, and were destined to be sold into slavery. Nicholas is said to have thrown bags of gold into their window which landed in their shoes that were drying by the fire. This is where the idea of putting gifts in stockings came from.
Through his life, Nicholas walked in a tremendous spirit of giving. His life is one to tell during the Christmas season and always as his example can serve as inspiration for our families to focus more on giving than on receiving.
A great video to teach younger children about St. Nicholas is the Veggie Tale movie that has been created about him, which does a very good job of telling his story in a way that is easy for kids to grasp.
For older kids, reading library books or celebrating “Saint Nicholas Day” on December 6th is a great way to draw remembrance to a man who truly lived out the words of Christ, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.“
Does your family celebrate Saint Nicholas Day? How do you find ways to bring the spirit of this gift-giver into your home?