Celebrate St. Nick's Day

by Beth Bales, "Inside Geneva," The Geneva Patch

True, Christmas is but three weeks away. But you can put stars in your kids' eyes on Monday, by celebrating St. Nicholas Day.

Chocolate Nicholas in shoe
Photo: Catholic Icing
Used by permission

For years, in the Fox Valley area, someone (or maybe it's someones) has been tossing in gold coins in Salvation Army kettles.

You could almost call him a St. Nicholas, who (according to that really reputable source, Wikipedia) "had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him."

A kettle isn't a shoe, of course, but the idea is the same. And because of his gift-giving, St. Nick is essentially the model for Santa Claus.

Well, that latter St. Nick doesn't come until Dec. 25. But . . . St. Nicholas Day is Monday.

For you parents of young children, particularly, you can create wonder and joy by having St. Nicholas come to your house Sunday evening. You don't even have to say anything in advance—but if some candy, some coins, baseball cards, sparkly hair accessories or those Crazy Bandz appear in your kids' shoes Monday morning the children will be ecstatic.

And you may just have created a memory that will endure. I know, as we do St. Nicholas here and have for years. In fact, St. Nicholas visits college campuses, via accommodating roommates. St. Nicholas (actually it took three St. Nick's to pull this off in the 45 minutes available) made a mad dash to the UPS Store on East State Street Thursday evening, because that was the only way this year's bounty would be in Milwaukee by Sunday night, without paying a hefty sleigh fee.

Truthfully, it can be kind of a pain to make sure St. Nick has something relatively small to proffer 2½ weeks before Christmas. I mean small in the monetary sense, as our personal St. Nick has long since given up trying to purchase only items that actually fit in a shoe. St. Nick also has to remember to have favorite candies on hand (always a good filler!) to add to the mix.

St. Nick also has to pay attention to the calendar. There was the year, several years ago, when St. Nick was a day behind. Much, much disappointment on the part of the children, then still in grade school or even younger to discover the stairway did not contain shoes filled with goodies. St. Nick pulled it out, however, with frantic stuffing of the planned trinkets in snow boots, discovered——O much, much delight—on the way to school.

I'm not sure my kids remember that one. (I certainly won't forget it!) I suspect St. Nicholas Day is something they treasure primarily for the tradition, for the "way it's always been" aspect of their lives, the fact that in the back of their minds they know someone has cared enough to make a somewhat ordinary day special for them.

Last year, my oldest daughter's roommate confused the days and put everything out a day early. No matter. My daughter told me she'd scrupulously waited until midnight. It had to be Dec. 6. Had to be. It's part of the wonder.

This year, my daughter is spending time taking care of three children. She's already planning to bring a little bit of holiday magic their way. She won't be with them Monday morning. But that won't matter. St. Nick will. (Don't anyone tell. . . .)

I'd like to suggest to parents out there who are, I know, already knee deep in trying to create holiday enchantment, to reach into their bag of tricks and try to create some more. The good thing about magic, like love, is that it expands to fill your world.

By Beth Bales, from "Inside Geneva," Geneva Patch, Geneva, Illinois, Sunday December 5, 2010. Used by permission.

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