Celebrate St. Nicholas at Home

by Anne Neuberger

"St. Nicholas"
Woodcarving, Tim Jumper
St Nicholas Center Collection
Photo: Hanno Lans, Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license

The fifth of December is not a major holiday in the United States as it is in the Netherlands, but we can celebrate the spirit of St. Nicholas within us. Our celebrations can range from very simple to elaborate.

At my house, out comes the Christmas tablecloth, replacing the Advent one for this one night. Candles, the good dishes, and our large and delightfully diverse collection of St. Nicholas figures grace the dinner table. We have a special meal that concludes with tea and cake, and the children place shoes by the fireplace for St. Nicholas to fill during the night.

We have celebrated in other ways, too. Here are some suggestions that can be used at home:

  • Use this book for family reading during Advent, starting on St. Nicholas Eve.
  • Host a party in which guests bring toys or medical supplies to be given to children in need. Read stories from this book and have a surprise treat for guests. Someone with a flair for the dramatic could dress as St. Nicholas to hand out the treats.
  • Before the party, contact places that will accept your donations. Sometimes they will give you suggestions, making the choosing of gifts easier and more fun for your guests. One year, we gave gifts to little ones staying in a shelter for women and children. Other times, we have hosted parties where toys and medicines collected were then sent to orphanages in Korea. One family could offer the party, or several families could work together. This could also be a parish event.
  • Make some treats, and sneak around to neighbors' or friends' houses, leaving the surprises on doorsteps; or leave a family member a breakfast treat outside a bedroom door. Some traditional St. Nicholas cookies are kruidnoten, pepernoten and speculaas.
  • As a family, donate money to a children's charity anonymously.
  • Choose one of the stories in this book and encourage children to dramatize it with simple stick puppets.
  • Have a "Boy Bishop" or turnabout day where children and adults trade places for a few hours.

From St. Nicholas: The Wonder Worker by Anne E. Neuberger, copyright © 2000 Our Sunday Visitor. Used by permission.
Collection of 18 stories drawn from St. Nicholas' life and others which have grown up around him over the centuries. For older children or reading aloud to younger ones. Purchase from amazon.com, amazon.ca or amazon.uk.

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