One of my favorite traditions to celebrate during the Christmas season is St Nicholas day. In the Orthodox Church, we celebrate the life of Saints on their feast day, and St Nicholas’ feast day is December 6th. This was not something we did growing up so when I learned about it as an adult, I couldn’t wait to celebrate it!
A brief history on Saint Nicholas (from stnicholascenter.org) “The true story of Santa Clause begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, and died in an epidemic while St Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to ‘sell what you own and give the money to the poor,’ St 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. One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.”
St Nicholas is a very special saint to our family because he is our Godson’s patron saint, he is known as the patron saint for children, and our parish in New York is named after him. We love St Nicholas!
To prepare for this feast, I buy gold coins and oranges from our local grocery store. I like to also give my girls one special present. This year they received some beautiful floral bows from Fancy Free Finery. On December 5th, we set out our shoes by the door. I also have a special hand painted icon of St Nicholas that I ordered from an iconographer I found on etsy (link here) so I set that out with the shoes as well. That evening, after my daughters are asleep, I fill our shoes with the golden coins, oranges, present and set out the various St Nicholas items from Emilias Post’s St Nicholas Day kit that I bought a few years ago (a few story books, post card of St Nicholas, print with hymn to St Nicholas). When the girls woke up, we went to see what St Nicholas left for us! I read the story of St Nicholas to my oldest, we talked about how he helped the poor because he loved God (and my daughter loves to repeat “because he loved God”). Last year we made cookies in the shape of St Nicholas, but this year I didn’t have it in me (aka newborn life) so we ate cookies we bought from the store. It was a really special day and I look forward to celebrating this year after year as my daughters grow!