Saint Nicholas ~ The Scroll
Over the past few weeks, I have seen many questions from parents new to celebrating Saint Nicholas Day on December 6. Besides wanting to know more about the background for Saint Nicholas as differing from Santa Claus, there is the pleasant question of what does Saint Nicholas leave in the children’s shoes?
There have been many sharings from those who have already shared this joyful event with their children. There is often the orange or tangerine, a golden walnut, maybe chocolate coins with golden covers, candy canes, cookies, small crystals and other small gifts that can fit in those little shoes! A few more maybe for those clever enough to leave out their snow boots!
But one thing I haven’t yet seen mentioned is the scroll.
And this is actually, the most important gift that Saint Nicholas can give to your children!
Traditionally and still in Waldorf schools, whenever Saint Nicholas comes in person, he usually brings a large book, often covered in gold foil. In this magical book are the names of all children (and often adults) who he has come to visit. Under each name is a message that he reads aloud. In most schools, he calls the child to him one by one. If the child is robust enough, he reads the message aloud to the group. For a shy or sensitive child, if he is a good Saint Nicholas, he will just speak it softly for only the child to hear.
In the “old days” these were often messages about “bad behavior” and what Saint Nicholas might have seen or heard about that disappointed him during the year. In the Waldorf schools, we certainly strive to emphasize the “good” behavior - especially those things that someone(!) told Saint Nicholas the child really had made progress on during the year! Nevertheless, there is always something that all of us can do better - in some cases a lot better. A good Saint Nicholas will also address these things in different ways with different children.
This process is a lot like the written “evaluations” that children and families receive from Waldorf teachers at the end of the year in lieu of grades. They are carefully pondered pictures of the child’s year. The progress, the things that have not progressed and those things affirmed to progress in the coming year.
As illustrated in my “Saint Nicholas Stories”, a gift that Saint Nicholas gives represents what is needed by the person receiving it to improve something in their life or personality or habits. The gift is given with a message - it can be told orally or written down. The message is about the gift being given and what it represents and how it can be used to help the child (or adult) remember what they are challenged to uplift themselves to.
When Saint Nicholas visited my Kindergarten in Seattle in the early 80’s he had some very pointed words for “Ms. Christine” as well - I can tell you! And he was spot on!The children got a real kick out of that.
There is a lovely book about one Waldorf teacher’s years of experience being Saint Nicholas and reading these messages and what they meant to the children and to him. Here is a link if you would like a copy.
When Saint Nicholas doesn’t appear in person, which is often the case in a family home (he is more able to visit groups!) then he may and should leave his messages in writing. In my past, Saint Nicholas has left them written in as calligraphic style (fancy) as possible. He may use an ink pen that the children haven’t seen lying around. The paper used is art paper or drawing paper and it is rolled up as a scroll and tied with a red ribbon. This scroll is placed in the shoes or between them and the reading of the scroll has been as important and awe inspiring as the gifts, often eclipsing them.
Messages for young children should most certainly emphasis their best traits and qualities - even if it needs to be in the “try” stage. For example, “Saint Nicholas knows that you have really been trying to remember to say please and thank you.”
But as the children move into grades level, the messages, while still being balanced and emphasizing the “good” and the “trying” and particularly congratulating successes, may also become more direct with those children who really need a bit of behavior modification help. It has been shared many times how a message from Saint Nicholas about what does need improving has been more deeply felt and meaningful than the same admonitions coming from any other source. Even with older children and teenagers who might never admit “believing in” Saint Nicholas have been seen to have wonder in their eyes at the meeting or when their message is read. I believe that it is a part of all of us to want to feel that “someone”, a benevolent being of course, is watching over us and really “sees” us for who we are and really cares about us. I believe that Saint Nicholas is a personification of that “someone”. In the Christian tradition, of course, he is a “someone” who wants us to come closer to the Divine. I believe that this gesture is adaptable to any name or belief that one is comfortable with.
Of course, the parents and teachers do the transcribing for Saint Nicholas. But if you put yourself in a quiet space and open your heart, you may find yourself very inspired and gifted with insight as you write.
What do we leave for Saint Nicholas? Cookies are very nice of course as well as any other treat. Please remember to leave a carrot or two for his donkey (with the tops on are especially memorable, I think.)
And what does Saint Nicholas leave for us? Insight into our own character and our own hearts, acknowledgment that we have something to do to really create a space inside of our souls for the Child of Light to be born, a scroll tied with red ribbon, little gifts and a trail of fairy dust (glitter) from the shoes he has touched out the door and down to the road where his feet have passed.
Wishing you a blessed holiday season!
December 2, 2015
By Christine Natale, used by permission.
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