by Anne Neuberger
Stories and activities for parents and teachers to use with children 4 – 8
Feast Day: December 6 • Life Dates: ca. 280-343
Illustration from envelope, Bar-le-Duc, France
St. Nicholas Center Collection
For Parents and TeachersNicholas, a bishop in Asia Minor (now Turkey), was known for his generosity and indomitable defense of the oppressed, especially children. During his life and after, hundreds of miracles were attributed to him. Two thousand churches, hospitals, and monasteries were named for him throughout Europe. By the end of the 1400s, he was considered the third most beloved religious figure after Jesus and Mary. Celebrating St. Nicholas in Advent, at home or in a parish, can bring about a joyful spirit of giving and the fun of sharing wonderful secret plans to help others. This helps counteract the consumer attitude prevalent in Advent. For a wealth of information, stories, plays, recipes, and customs about St. Nicholas, how his image evolved into Santa Claus, and how to celebrate his feast as part of Advent, see www. stnicholascenter.org.
Story for Children: A Gift in the NightThis story explains how Nicholas became known for his secret gift giving. Children will need to understand that long ago, it was necessary that a bride's family gave a gift of money to the groom's family. Without the money, young women could not marry, and if they or their family could not support them, some became slaves.
Feast Day Celebration
The feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in so many places that recipes and activities could easily fill several books. Use the above- mentioned Web site for recipes from the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and Ukraine. Both traditional recipes as well as those using convenience goods are included.
In the spirit of St. Nicholas, prepare some "sacks of gold." Put a few Christmas cookies or candies into a square of tissue paper and tie this into a bag with ribbon. Then, after dark, sneak around to friends' houses to secretly leave the goodies at their doors. Run away quickly! If this is not feasible, your children can leave secret treats at church offices or for children in another classroom.
Then celebrate by setting a table with rich colors of reds and golds. Add any images (statues, holy cards, illustrations) you have of St. Nicholas as a bishop. At this dark time of year, many votive candles add atmosphere. Enjoy your feast, read additional stories from the St. Nicholas Center Web site, and appreciate the sense of mystery that can sometimes be felt on this feast day!
Sing this prayer to the tune of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"
He snuck out in the nighttime.
He left gifts in the darkness.
He helped many, many people,
Because he loved God so much!
Who is this secret person?
Who is this mystery?
He's called St. Nicholas,
But he's also you and me!
So, good saint, please help us
To love and give to one another.
We know that is what God asks us,
So please help us we pray!
From A Circle of Saints: Stories and Activities for Children Ages 4–8 by Anne Neuberger, © 2009, Twenty-third Publications, New London, Connecticut. Used by permission.
Stories and activities organized by season: Advent, Christmas and early winter; Ordinary Time and mid-winter; Lent, Easter, Pentecost and spring; Ordinary Time and summer; Ordinary Time and autumn. There are six saints for each season, each with a story and suggestions for activities, food, decorations and prayer.
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