Did St. Nicholas come to visit your house yesterday morning? We have been celebrating St. Nicholas Day for many years now, first as part of the cycle of the year in Waldorf festivals in addition to our Germanic roots, and now as part of our liturgical year in the Episcopal Church. Such a lovely day!
I love this little quote from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “Mrs. Sharpe’s Traditions” about St. Nicholas Day:
For parents who feel frustrated by the fact that Santa Claus’s visit inevitably overshadows their religious observance of the birth of Christ, a visit from St. Nicholas can help tremendously. For modern children who no longer believe in Santa Claus (and to Mrs. Sharp’s dismay, it seems they get younger with each passing Christmas), a celebration of St. Nicholas Day can satisfy a deep desire in children to believe in a benevolent and generous gift giver who rewards the good.
The author goes on to discuss her little treats of choice: seasonal cakes (such as iced gingerbread, lebkuchen,), a small bag of gold foil covered chocolate coins and one longed-for gift. From Waldorf resources, “Festivals With Children” by Brigitte Barz actually has no mention of St. Nicholas Day (but does cover St. Barbara’s branches!), but Freya Jaffke covers the role of St. Nicholas in the Waldorf School setting quite extensively. She writes:
St. Nicholas brings another true and resonant image to children on their journey through Advent…Legends about St. Nicholas describe how he emanated love and benevolence and was willing to sacrifice himself. Thus he becomes a figure who prepares and heralds the Christmas festival, at which the birth of Christ can be renewed in us each year.
When St. Nicholas visits a Waldorf classroom, he often carries a large golden book and offers the events of the past few days for small children – Jaffke writes that he does not judge, but does expresses pleasure at things for the small children. Only after the age of seven could one expect children to begin reflecting on their actions and perhaps undertake to improve anything or change something. The author goes on to describe three traditional gifts – the apple (knowledge); nuts (strength!) and sweets such as gingerbread (warmth). The author writes a lively description of the morning of a St. Nicholas visit to a classroom with order of events. Most of all, St. Nicholas becomes an inner preparation for the Advent season for adults and children alike.
In our home, we focus on stories of St. Nicholas and the life of St. Nicholas. In the past sometimes we have done homemade gifts and sometimes it was a more major gift-giving day.; sometimes we gave out nuts and fruit and made iced gingerbread. This year we had gold foil coins and one gift plus a little set of Nativity Icons to color as ornaments for our Christmas tree (which we will get this week, I think). I didn’t make a golden scroll or note from St. Nicholas, which I have done in past years as well, but we did go to church and celebrate again. I have kept things as simple as possible this year to just relax and have fun with our children of widely different ages, especially when a Feast Day falls on a day where we will be at church, which is a busy day of the week for us.
This week marks the second week of Advent and tomorrow I will be sharing with you the things I love in the second week of Advent. Please share your traditions, successes, and joys.
Many moons ago, I commented on one of your posts about the fest of St. Nicholas. I had celebrated it as a child (we are of Eastern European descent) but had not yet introduce it to my own children. That year (the year I commented) we began to celebrate it as a family. It has become something I think my children look forward to even more than Christmas. There is always the discussion of who St. Nicholas was and then the treats in the shoes. This year they received an orange (of course!), some chocolates, bedroom slippers and mandala coloring books. Thank you so much for reminding me of this tradition and helping me bring it to my family!
A lovely post. Worth thinking about including this celebration. We are not a Waldorf home but I aspire to some of the Waldorf ideas.
We had a lovely St. Nicholas celebration. On Saturday the 5th we baked St. Nicholas gingerbread cookies, and I decorated them after the children when to bed. We left out one cookie for St. Nicholas and a carrot for his donkey. We also read several stories about St. Nicholas on the 4th and 5th. On Sunday morning the children found chocolate coins in their shoes, as well as a beautiful new book called St. Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0881415111?keywords=st%20nicholas%20and%20the%20nine%20gold%20coins&qid=1449587978&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1). Our youngest, who is 20 months, received an orange, a couple chocolate coins, and a board book of the Little Drummer Boy. We packaged up the rest of our cookies and took them to church, where we distributed them secretly in friends’ cars before we went inside. We really enjoyed this secret gift-giving! After the service, a deacon at our church came down as St. Nicholas’ messenger and told a story to the children, taught them a Russian song (Oh Who Loves Nicholas the Saintly) and handed out more chocolate coins. We are also organizing a food drive in St. Nicholas’ honor. That night we had a special meal followed by one cookie each and the coins. Monday morning our two elder children went to school (a Waldorf school) with cookies for their teachers. St. Nicholas had visited the school over the weekend too, so there was glitter all over the floors, and each child found a clementine and a sparkly golden star made of wood in their shoes or on their desk. We have been singing Oh Who loves Nicholas the Saintly daily. Our children just love this feast day!
This year I told a story about St. Nicholas and like in year’s past, we left our boots out for his visit on the eve of his day. They also made bishop hats out of red paper and learned a St. Nicholas prayer/verse in German. In the morning the children found a sweet treat (chocolate coins) and a small gift- pretty hairbands for the girls. St. Nicholas day we made two baskets for neighbors in secret. Knocking on the door and running away. Enclosed was a story of St. Nick, packaged goodies, dozen eggs, a baking mix and a couple other items. At the bottom of the story we suggested that they too create a basket of goodies for another neighbor…
They LOVEd doing this! Throughout the year we make baked goodies or decorations for neighbors, but this act really got them excited. We mark the 2nd week of Advent with mailing out baked goods to family.
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