St. Nicholas

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Saint Nicholas and his Helper

A tradition from Lorraine

by Nathalie Henry

Sinterklaas & Piet
Dutch Postcard, Hallmark
St Nicholas Center Collection

Peter and Saint Nicholas enter the stage area the audience will be singing "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" as they come in. Peter is carrying a large picture book and a suitcase (full of honey cakes to distribute at the end).

Peter
Master, they are all here to listen to you.

Saint Nicholas
Thank you, my dear friend. Peter, I will need your help to tell the story of our journey.

Peter
At your service, my lord.

Saint Nicholas to the public
Friends we have been travelling from afar and my dear helper Peter is going to tell you how we came to name of location to celebrate with you the mystery of what is to come.

Peter putting the large book on the table and opening it, reading
We came from afar, we have been travelling all over Europe and also in Russia, collecting stories and participating in the preparation of the wonderful feast which is yet to come. My master here present is Saint Nicholas and his feast was day of week for December 6 and is also celebrated this Sunday. He is the true origin of our Father Christmas. We have been travelling everywhere to collect the stories of his legend and we'll tell you some of the miracles he performed for the love of our dear lord Christ.

Saint Nicholas coming next to Peter and turning the page, both have their hands on the same book, nearly touching each other
Friends  . . . . This feast of the birth of our Lord we will celebrate at the end of the month— remember how it all started. For me, I was not yet a bishop when His grace touched me and changed my destiny forever.

Peter
In the year 300 my lord Nicholas was just a young man from a very wealthy family of Lycia. On the feast of the New Year he was walking to the market to buy some embroidery brocade for his cousin. His family was one of the most powerful families of this town and he could afford to buy the best presents coming from all over Italy, Egypt, and France. As he was very near to his destination, he came to a small road when, he suddenly heard—

Saint Nicholas interrupting
A very deep cry and there she was, a beautiful young lady in distress. She was so upset she did not even see me as I was standing by the window. She was crying in the main room of what was certainly a merchant house. A maid was by her, comforting her, and saying her father might change his mind. I did not want to interfere—

Peter interrupting
So my Master went to his affairs and came back at noon, the house seemed empty but he knocked at the door and the maid came.

Saint Nicholas
She asked me, "Who are you? What do you want?" I explained what I saw and how moved I was. I asked her, "What is wrong with the young lady of the house? Could I help?"

Peter
O my master was there to rescue the young lady. Do you think he thought of her as a beautiful bride for himself?

Saint Nicholas
I could have. I was not married. But when I heard her story from the maid, my heart was pierced with the bitterest arrow. This young woman, Arabelle, was about to be sold by her father who was so much in debt he could not give her a dowry so she could be married. I said nothing to the maid but thanked her for her story asking her not to reveal to anyone that I had been in their house.

Peter
At night, my master came back near the house and through the shutter saw the whole family meeting in the largest room by the fire. Silently my master, who was in his young age, could climb on top of the house and throw . . . a ball made of gold through the chimney.

Saint Nicholas
On top of the house, I prayed for Arabelle and the miracle happened, Christ heard the pain of this young girl and by His grace, the ball travelled and . . .

Peter
Fell in the sock of Arabelle, which was drying in front of the fire.

Saint Nicholas
That was a miracle. I was amazed in the morning when I came by the house to hear tears of joy as Arabelle, the oldest daughter, was sharing the news that a dowry had come from heaven and that she was to be married to the man she loved.

Peter
Do you know how many daughters the merchant had? There were three daughters and it was not long before the father was in debt again because his business was not good. Saint Nicholas heard from one of his servants that the two younger sisters of Arabelle were about to be sold to pay their father's debts. What do you think he did?

Saint Nicholas
What I did for Arabelle, I had to do to save her sisters.

Peter
He went on the roof again and dropped two balls made of gold and they fell . . .  in the socks of the two girls. In the morning everybody in the city rejoiced, as the two younger daughters of the merchant were to be married with each of them having received a dowry from heaven. Nobody knew my master was the one who gave these wonderful gifts.

Saint Nicholas
Alas! the peace in my lovely town did not last as the plague started its sinister course and many people died. My parents both died and I was then both very rich and very lonely.

Peter
My master gave all his fortune to help the citizens of the city. Then he set out on foot, and later by boat, as a solitary pilgrim travelling to the Holy Land.

Saint Nicholas
And it's in that pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine that I met my marvellous friend who came back with me. Peter from the Holy Land served me and later became a Christian as I was.

Peter
I converted because I saw so many miracles, and I could not do better than trusting the Master of my master. My lord saint Nicholas saved sailors from the dangers of dying in the sea, like Jesus in the Gospel story, he just blessed the boat and the storm stopped. He saved many pilgrims but the best known miracles are about children he saved from death.

Saint Nicholas
When I came back to Turkey, in the city of Myra, near the village known today as Demre, I was offered the sacred duty of being Bishop of Myra. It was a miracle for a traveller like me to be welcomed by the news that many priests in the diocese had named me for this office following a revelation in their prayers. As bishop, I walked in the city and visited the poor families throughout the town. Many merchants came to ask me to visit their shops and I went to visit a butcher.

Peter
As soon as we were in his shop, Saint Nicholas became sad and grey and asked to visit the cave with the pickled jars and barrels. The butcher refused, but seeing the determination of his bishop, he opened the door with fear and there—

Saint Nicholas
Nobody could see them, but by the grace of God I prayed and blessed the biggest barrel there and three pickled boys woke up and came back to life—these three boys who were lost and slaughtered by the butcher's knife. Michaelo, Marco and Manuel—all three were alive and well.

Vintage Sinterklaas Postcard
Vintage Postcard, Netherlands
St Nicholas Center Collection

Peter
That was a real miracle and this is why my master became the patron saint of all children. When it's the eve of his feast, the evening of December 5th, many children around the world put their socks or shoes by the chimney hoping Saint Nicholas can still climb on the roof, despite his old age, and drop a wonderful present. He brings joy to all and we travel together visiting all the countries where people still remember the stories of his marvellous and miraculous works of piety.

Saint Nicholas
Thank you for listening. I have a little surprise for all the children here today. Peter, would you open this suitcase you have been carrying all around the world?

Peter opening the suitcase and starting to give out the bags of honey cakes and the sweets
Today, we bring you honey cakes, a sweet little cake for all the sweet children here. Remember our story when you prepare for Christmas.


By Nathalie Henry, who now lives in Manchester, England, grew up in French Lorraine. She shares the St. Nicholas tradition with her young daughter's friends and the Withington Methodist Church in Manchester. Used by permission. If you use the diaglogue, Nathalie would like to hear from you

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