Today is the feast of St. Nicholas! As a child, my family never celebrated St. Nicholas day. I remember hearing about some of our friends who did, and feeling envious of them. And in childlike wisdom, who wouldn't want to wake up to a stocking full of goodies on the morning? It was like a preview to all the toys and gifts we were going to receive on Christmas morning! I thought that St. Nicholas Day seemed to be a good idea! It would be a way to "tide us over"! Of course, in reflecting on the absence of participation in the Feast of St. Nicholas traditions, it's obvious at how secular my family's celebration has always been! After boldly suggesting that perhaps we should celebrate this, my Mother replied that it was a "Catholic thing", and since we weren't Catholic, then we didn't "do" St. Nicholas day.
So, ok. We weren't Catholic, and in reality I was probably past the age of believing that Santa really came down our chimney. Yet I still embraced the magic of Christmas. Curiously, when I learned that sad truth, my Mother sat me on her lap and explained about "the spirit of Santa
Claus" and how he really did exist, but that Mommy's and Daddy's helped him out. And once Christmas morning came, and there were still presents under the tree, any anxiety I felt evaporated. And while these are warm memories... and this time of my life was filled with joy, love and laughter, I see now that I missed out on so much... missed out on celebrating the birth of the Christ Child- the true reason for celebrating!
I discovered that there are many different customs for St. Nicholas Day. I read on the Fisheater's Website that
"Today is, for many Catholics, the day for gift-giving (some do this on Christmas, some do this on the Feast of the Epiphany in memory of the gifts the 3 Kings gave to Baby Jesus, and some spread the gift-giving out on all these days). In some places, especially in the Eastern Catholic churches, "St. Nicholas," dressed as a Bishop, will show up and hand out presents to the little ones, and children put their shoes in front of the fireplace to be filled with candy and presents by morning. Because coins are one of the many symbols of St. Nicholas, chocolate coins are a perfect thing to put in the childrens' shoes. One can use Christmas stockings instead of shoes, or one can buy adult-sized wooden shoes, paint and decorate them, and bring them out for use just on St. Nicholas's Day.
In any case, an icon -- even a nice Holy Card -- of St. Nicholas should be visible today if at all possible. Surround it with greenery and candles, and tell your children the story of the Saint Nicholas behind the "Santa Claus."
On St. Nicholas's Feast Day, it is customary to serve Speculaas cookies, a spicy Dutch cookie, cut into shapes relevant to the life of St. Nicholas (coins, mitres, ships, balls, money bags), and painted with colorful icing"
I also found an compelling blog, written by Father Steve Grunow which examines the constant struggle between Christians and Secularists. Click here to read: St. Nicholas and the War against Christmas.
And finally, just who was St. Nicholas? Check out this video that tells the true story of Santa Claus: