St. Nicholas Family Party
Event Team Guide
from Open Doors by LeaderResources
One of the challenges parents face is how to handle with that time when their child begins to ask questions about Santa Claus. How do they help a child understand that Santa Claus is a concept, rather than a person? How do they deal with fact that to a greater or lesser extent they may have been stretching the truth for years? How will knowing the truth effect Christmas for their child—or the family?
St. Nicholas is the basis of the Santa Claus myth. So telling children the St. Nicholas story helps them understand how that story about a real bishop morphed into the Santa Claus story. This is useful beyond the Santa Claus story—over time it helps children understand how humans create stories and find meaning in them. So the clergy time with parents is designed to help parents with the process.
The party is just a party and follows the same format as the BacktoSchool Party.
- Start with singing Christmas-related songs.
- Tell the story of St. Nicholas using information you can glean from our website
- It is fun to have someone dressed as a bishop who arrives and tells the story of his life. If possible, give the bishop a red cope and miter, trimmed in white fur so it doesn't take much for children to make the association with Santa Claus!
- Prepare your storyteller and teachers to be prepared to answer the question about whether this is Santa Claus or how come he resembles Santa Claus. Don't say: Santa Claus doesn't exist (it isn't your job to debunk that myth and doing so could cause considerable trauma). Rather explain that some people believe that the story of St. Nicholas is where we got the story of Santa Claus. Show how the words St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are similar. Point out that both stories are about giving gifts and explain that gift giving, especially giving in secret, is what both stories are about. Move the conversation to how we give gifts at Christmas to celebrate God's gift of the baby Jesus, given to us at Christmas.
This is an occasion when teenagers can work with the children and they might even take the lead in planning this party. One might dress up as St. Nicholas. Or several of them might re-enact one or more of the St. Nicholas stories. Invite them to explore the St. Nicholas website and come up with ideas of what to do.
After the story time, the children go to their Sunday School rooms to make a Christmas related craft. More craft ideas
- Coloring pages you can print
- Felt puppets, slippers and stockings
- Directions on how to draw St. Nicholas
- 17 different ways to make a St. Nicholas figures from cardboard tubes, Pringles cans, etc.
- Directions on how to make miters (the bishop's head wear)
- Directions for how to turn a chocolate Santa into St. Nicholas(a perfect way to make this connection obvious to the children)
Just about anything you'd ever need for a St. Nicholas party can be found on this website. In addition to crafts there are also articles, clip art, handouts, music, plays, recipes, etc. Since this website is so rich, we are simply going to send you there instead of replicating it all here! This website is the ministry of Carol Myers who, with the encouragement and support of the Rev. Jim Rosenthal (former Director of Communication for the Anglican Communion) has gathered St. Nicholas resources from around the world. Use the ideas from this website to organize your party and prepare food, decorations and more.
After the children present their craft to their parents, serve food. Say thanks, goodbye and remember to invite guest families to church and especially to the Christmas Pageant. Follow up as before with a mailed or emailed thank you note and information about the pageant time, place, etc. Make sure you collect contact information and track who comes to church in the following weeks.
The first follow-up item is to send an email to any family that came thanking them for coming and telling them about the events of the next couple of weeks. And send a note to everyone who helped organize the party thanking them for their contribution. So often we forget to thank each other for the ministry we do on behalf of God and the church. Don't forget the children and youth. If your youth told the lesson/story, send each of them a note thanking them for helping make the party fun and meaningful for the children and their parents. Finally, add any local family to your tracking sheet so you can follow up if they come to subsequent events. If you are a small to moderate sized church, you might even want to keep track of out-of-town visitors and who they were visiting so you can pull it out next year. Nothing is more impressive than being able to greet them by name and remember that these are Mrs. X's grandchildren. This is, by the way, one reason why taking photos of an event is useful. A photo with people identified can make this much easier.
These suggestions about how to remember people and therefore be able to greet them by name a year later probably remind you of a time when a business did this with you. Businesses do it because they know it makes a difference. They wouldn't waste time and money doing it if it didn't. People respond to the personal touch, so businesses work hard to provide it. We can learn from them. They have lots of money to do the research that affirms what does and does not work. We can benefit from their research by observing what they do and, when appropriate, translating it in to our context. We get those benefits for free!
Personalized hospitality is one of those practices that fits us perfectly. But it does require work. Someone has to identify visitors by name, take pictures, label them and then remember to pull them out and look at them so you can actually recognize people. A big church with a ton of visitors probably can't do that. But a small to medium sized church can. Find people in your congregation who enjoy doing this kind of thing. And think about how you can get multiple uses out of that effort. For example, post those pictures on a bulletin board for the month after the party. That will help everyone who sees a return visitor at the Epiphany party. Pick the best ones for an article in your newsletter. Include a photo of the family's child in the thank-you note or a party picture in your thank-you note to adults who helped with the party. Put one on your website (make sure you get parental permission if it is a close up of a child). Stash the pictures so you can use them on next year's invitation.
Introduction to Open Doors
Invitation Team Guide
Communications Team: Sample newsletter & bulletin announcement, press release & poster
Event Team Planning Guide
Hospitality Team Recipes & name tags
Santa and Saint Nicholas Sample talk for parents and adults
Purchase from LeaderResources. Available for download as PDFs or editable Word.docs, with full reproducible rights for the original purchaser.