Monday, December 5, 2011

Preparing for tonight's visit from St. Nicholas

My husband is of German descent.  A few years ago we adopted the celebration of St. Nicholas in our home so that we may incorporate that heritage into our American Christmas celebration.  He is widely celebrated in European countries.  St. Nicholas comes during the night on December 5th (for the celebration held on December 6th) and puts candy, small toys etc into the shoes that have been left by the door by small children.  See below for more details on St. Nicholas.  He comes earlier in the month so that Christmas Day can be set apart to celebrate Jesus' birth and not be focused on toys and gifts.

My son's shoes awaiting St. Nicholas

"The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of PataraAt 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.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts.  
Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child."

Also go here for a recipe to make cookies to leave for St. Nicholas.

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