St. Nicholas' First Gifts Given

by Don Dixon
St Nicholas with tree and bear
German die-cut scrap
St. Nicholas Center Collection

Most of us remember the days when we couldn't sleep the night before Christmas because of our anxiety and impatience to see what was there for us under the tree. I know I couldn't. My parents had to try to keep me quiet, read to me, do anything to soothe my excitement.

Of course, some families opened presents on the eve of the big day and this removed the anxiety until the morning of the day before the evening celebration.

There is a way to help your children—and you, to—cope with the anticipation and anxiety about getting presents for Christmas. If you prefer, you can skip to the last paragraph of what I'm saying and start to lay the groundwork for a special day and it could become a tradition in your family whether you are religious or not.

Let me tell you a story about the origin of Christmas gift-giving.

St. Nicholas, giver of gifts, is known by many names—St. Nick, Santa Claus and Father Christmas. He is said to have been a bishop in Myra, a city in Southwestern Asia Minor, during the fourth century.

He was a tall, slender man with a stoop in his shoulders, for he was not too young. His face was grave, his manner dignified.

He liked to walk through the marketplace of the city where he lived. Early one morning he heard snatches of excited talk that made him wonder what had happened to cause so much chatter.

"He's going to sell them?"
"All three?"
"Yes, all three!"

"Oh … " the speaker shrugged and gestured with his hands. "He hasn't any money. He can't feed them."

The man who bought and sold horses said, "Silas is going to sell them right here" and he thumped the front of his stall. "One at a time. The first one goes on sale tomorrow morning."

The bishop went back home and sent a servant to the market to find out who Silas was and what he was selling. Silas was going to sell his daughters one by one. Bishop Nicolas said, "This must not be." So he sent his servant for three nights to drop a purse of gold on Silas' porch.

On the third night, Silas took hold of his servant and said, "What are you doing?"

"My master always gives his gifts in secret."

When the word got around the village, everyone knew who might do such a thing. But the servant was kept in their hearts.

Now we know why gifts are wrapped at Christmas time. And the real test is not to put a greeting card on the package so there will be no payback.

On the Church's calendar, Dec. 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas. It would be an ideal time to give your children a gift or gifts which would help all in the family relieve some of the fret and anxiety prior to Christmas day. And it could be a family tradition and for some a time for the family to worship together.

This letter was originally written by Don Dixon, of Battle Creek. He entered into eternal life on December 17, 2013. It is republished at the request of his daughter Anne, in honor of his memory, and as a tribute to his passion for writing to the opinion page.

By Don Dixon, from the Battle Creek Enquirer, December 23, 2013.

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