Monday, December 5, 2011

Feast of St. Nicholas and a Great Book

How is your Advent going?  I've been enjoying my daily Advent devotional on EWTN's website.  The daily reflection is based on a Scripture verse.  Then, there is a short reflection followed by an "Advent Action" (something you can do to put the day's lesson into action), and a closing prayer.

Philip gave me a wonderful book that I have to recommend for every Catholic home!  Fittingly, it's called The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day by Meredith Gould, Ph.D.  (I've linked to, but I encourage you to purchase the book from your local Catholic bookstore if you can.) 

The book introduces the reader to the beautiful traditions available to us through the celebration of the liturgical calendar.  In addition to the liturgical seasons, there are other sections on topics such as daily devotions, honoring the sacraments, making time, Mary, essential prayers, and recommended resources.

This book has been a great resource to me.  I am learning so much, and I am loving all of the ideas I am getting for our home and family.  Next year, for example, I hope to adopt the tradition of having a Jesse Tree.   How cute is this one?!  Here's the link with directions on how to make this particular tree.

The author suggests giving Santa "a sacred makeover" by restoring St. Nicholas Eve (December 5) and St. Nicholas Day (December 6).  St. Nicholas was a fourth-century bishop of Myra (in modern-day Turkey).  Among his contributions were being present at the Council of Nicaea and condemning Arianism.  On her section about St. Nicholas, Gould says:

During the sixteenth century, the stately St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, patron saint of children in the Eastern Churches, was transformed into a boisterous, hefty old man with a long white beard.  The red getup and beard happen to have been modeled (by Dutch Protestants) on the Norse god Thor who lived in "Northland" and traveled the skies in a goat-drawn chariot.  How St. Nicholas morphed into Santa Claus is somewhat of an enigma, although Nicholas of Myra was known for comforting orphans with little gifts (20).
If you would like to honor this saint, consider adopting the tradition of writing a letter to the Christ Child like the European and Canadian Catholics do.  Be sure to leave the note on the windowsill for St. Nicholas to pick up and deliver.

If you're more hardcore (and confident in your children's religious formation), adopt the tradition of Eastern Europe and the Low Countries.  Have St. Nicholas arrive on December 6.  Rather than a red suit, he wears a white robe and the bishop mitre.  Holding his staff, he asks children to recite their Catechism or prayers.  Traditional gifts include cookies, chocolate, apples, nuts, and holy cards.  Instead of opening gifts on Christmas Day, children receive their presents on January 6th, The Feast of the Epiphany (celebration of the Magi's visit to the Christ Child).

The book says nothing about shoes, but the Feast of St. Nicholas tradition at my house will involve shoes!  My children will leave their shoes outside of their bedrooms, and St. Nicholas will fill them with gold chocolate coins, a clementine (or other fruit), and a Holy Card.  How cute are these precious little shoes??? 

Have you ever celebrated the Feast of St. Nicholas at your house?  What do you do to celebrate?   

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