St. Nicholas

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St. Nicholas, the Generous Bishop

An Echo Story, by Page Zyromski

Dutch Postcard Sinterklaas
Postcard, Netherlands
St Nicholas Center Collection

How do you use echo stories? You probably suspect that you'll need to be a cheerleader of sorts, maybe even an aerobics instructor: "Now everybody, stand up, stretch your legs! You're going to repeat every line I say in the same tone of voice, and you're going to imitate every action I make just as I do it! Now, let's GO!"

I usually tell teachers to photocopy the script for themselves so they can fold it in half to hold in one. . . . In any case the script needs to be tailored to your immediate situation. As you rehearse, mark up your photocopy, highlight it, color code it—anything to make the phrasings personal. From the Introduction

Teaching the distinctions between the fourth-century St. Nicholas and his red-suited counterpart can be a delicate business, especially with the very young. Yet it's worth the effort because modern advertising has switched the original message of charitable giving into materialistic "gimme." The real-life Nicholas was Bishop of Myra (southwestern Turkey), famous for his holiness, zeal, and legendary generosity. He died about 350 AD. The three bags of gold that Nicholas gave to a poor father to use as dowries for his daughters are the origin of the pawnbrokers' symbol of three gold balls. Nicholas' feast day is December 6th. Older children will easily see how "Santa" is a form of "Sanctus" (Saint), and "Claus" is a shortened form of Nicholas.


St. Nicholas lived a long time ago.
(jerk thumb repeatedly over shoulder on "ago")

But he was a real person like you and me.
(point to "you" and "me")

When he was still just a little boy,
(measure "so high" with hand)

his mother and father died.
(close eyes, droop head)

This made Nicholas very sad.
(pull down corners of mouth: sad face)

But it also gave him a love for children
(hands over heart)

that he never ever lost.
(shake head, keeping hands over heart)

His parents left him lots of money.
(rub fingers together for "money, money")

So he gave gifts to the poor,
(reach in pocket, hand out "money")

in Jesus' name.
(point up to heaven)

When Nicholas grew up,
(measure "so high," and steadily move taller)

he became a bishop.
(indicate a bishop's hat on top of head)

And he kept on giving gifts to the poor,
(reach in pocket, hand out "money")

in Jesus' name.
(point to heaven)

Once he heard about a man
(cup ear for "heard")

who had three daughters,
(hold up three fingers, tick off)

but no money for their dowry.
(rub fingers together for "money": shake head)

Girls needed a dowry to get married.
(mime putting a wedding ring on finger)

Nicholas heard the oldest daughter crying.
(rub eyes, pretend to weep)

She wanted to get married and couldn't.
(indicate ring finger and shake head)

So one night when everyone was asleep,
(pillow head on hands)

Nicholas tiptoed by the poor man's house,
(turn to the side, tiptoe, make "shhh" motions)

and threw a bag of gold over the wall,
(toss imaginary "bag," like basketball)

giving a gift in Jesus' name.
(point to heavens)

In the morning the daughter woke up,
(yawn, rub eyes, stretch)

and was so surprised!
(slap cheeks with hands)

A bag of gold was lying in the courtyard!
(point to "bag" on ground, amazed)

She ran off and got married right away.
(turn to the side, run briskly in place)

When the second daughter grew up,
(measure "so high," taller and taller)

she wanted to get married too.
(mime putting wedding ring on finger)

And she also cried and cried,
(rub eyes, weeping)

because her father still didn't have her dowry.
(rub fingers together for "money," shake head)

Nicholas waited till everyone was asleep,
(pillow head on hands)

and tiptoed by their house again,
(turn sideways, tiptoe, make "shhh" motions)

and threw another bag of gold over the wall,
(toss imaginary "bag," like basketball)

giving a gift in Jesus' name.
(point to heavens)

The second daughter was surprised too!
(slap cheeks with hands)

Another bag of gold was lying in the courtyard!
(point to "bag" on ground, amazed)

So she ran off and got married right away.
(turn to side, run briskly in place)

When Nicholas heard that the third daughter
(hold up three fingers, tick off)

had grown up
(measure "so high," taller and taller)

and was old enough to get married,
(put "wedding ring" on finger)

he didn't wait another minute.
(shake head)

He tiptoed past their house at night,
(turn to side, tiptoe, make "shhh" motions)

and threw a third bag of gold over the wall,
(toss imaginary "bag" like basketball)

giving a gift in Jesus' name.
(point to heavens)

The third daughter was just as surprised as her sisters
(slap cheeks with hands)

to find a bag of gold in the courtyard.
(point to "bag" on ground, amazed)

The father knelt down on the spot,
(kneel down, awed)

and thanked God.
(bow head, clasp hands in fervent prayer)

The man and his daughters never knew
(stand up again, shake head)

that those three bags of gold
(hold up three fingers)

given in secret in the middle of the night
(turn to the side, tiptoe, make "shh" motions)

were the start of giving gifts in Jesus' name
(point to heavens)

on the feast of St. Nicholas.
(make imaginary Bishop's hat over head)

In some countries children set out their shoes,
(stick out foot and point to shoe)

and are surprised by gifts the next morning.
(slap cheeks in surprise)

In our country we hang up stockings,
(stick out foot, tug at sock)

and are surprised by gifts the next morning.
(slap cheeks in surprise)

Nicholas is the patron saint of children.
(indicate lots of "children," measuring "so high")

He wanted them to be happy.
(turn up corners of mouth with fingers)

Especially the children of the poor.
(pull "pockets" inside out, turn empty palms up, sad)

He didn't want to make children greedy.
(hunch over, hug "things" to self, make mean face)

He taught us to give our gifts
(hand out "gifts")

in Jesus' name.
(point to heavens)

To give our gifts,
(hand out "gifts")

in Jesus' name.
(point to heavens)


QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

Let the children sit down and check to see that they know what a "dowry" is before beginning.

  • Do you plan to give someone a gift this Christmas that makes you excited? Is it a secret?

     

  • Have you ever wanted to share and be generous because you saw someone else doing it first? What did you do and how did it make you feel?

     

  • Are there more TV advertisements for toys during this season? Do you think this makes kids more greedy, or more generous?

     

  • After Christmas, what would happen if you asked your friends, "What did you give," instead of "What did you get"?


CLOSING PRAYER

Lord Jesus, let us be generous just like St. Nicholas was. Give us his love for the poor, and his energy and creativity to think of ways we can help them. Turn our thoughts to others, Lord, and stop us from thinking only about ourselves. Show us the way we too can "give gifts in Jesus' name." Amen.


Reproduced with permission from the book Echo Stories for Children by Page Zyromski. Copyright © 1998; all rights reserved. Published by Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, CT06355. This useful resource has twenty-two interactive stories of saints, biblical figures, and other seasonal days.
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