Nicholas: The Children’s Saint
31 West 10th Street, Holland, Michigan
18 November 2005–30 January 2006
Delightful children’s toys, puppets, games, and much more, feature in this exhibit focused on Saint Nicholas as the popular patron of children everywhere. Such are the ways children enjoy and learn about the good saint. Children’s things from the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, Canada, and the United States, are a part of the display. This is the fifth St. Nicholas Center exhibit at the museum.
Saint Nicholas, the real Santa Claus, is the patron saint for children.
He lived in the 4th century, serving as Bishop of Myra, on the Mediterranean coast in what is now known as Turkey. Nicholas was known far and wide for his generosity, love for children, actions for justice, and protection of those in need. His many acts of compassion and mercy led people to revere him as protector and helper for all in need, especially children.
As stories and legends of good Saint Nicholas spread throughout the world, he became one of the most popular saints.
One of the oldest stories tells of a young boy, Basilios, who was kidnapped on St. Nicholas Day and carried away to Cyprus where he became the king’s cup bearer. A year later the king asked why the boy seemed particularly sad. “Because it is St. Nicholas Day and I am far from home,” replied Basilios. “You shall never go home,” said the king. Immediately Saint Nicholas miraculously appeared, lifted the boy, and then set him down outside his own home.
Another story, especially popular in France, tells of Saint Nicholas rescuing three children from an evil inn keeper and returning them to their families.
St. Nicholas is still the gift-giver in much of Europe, visiting children during Advent on his feast day, December 6. Europeans brought Nicholas to the New World where he has been transformed into Santa Claus. By his generosity to the needy and his concern for all who have been wronged, St. Nicholas still serves as a worthy model for the compassionate life.
Because he is the special friend of boys and girls, there are many St. Nicholas toys, puppets, books, and other things from all around the world. These objects help children remember the good saint, whose selfless nature embodies the true spirit of Christmas.