Props & Talking Points

Objects and pictures can help tell Saint Nicholas' story, as visuals help people of all ages listen and remember. These visuals may be used by a person representing the good saint or by a storyteller. A child may be asked to hold the object, or picture, so everyone can see it. Each item may then be put on a table where it serves as a visual review. Select objects that will be appropriate to the group—and the allotted time. If presenting St. Nicholas to the same group year after year, choose different objects to tell other parts of the story.
Pictures Illustrating Saint Nicholas Story
Relate St. Nicholas to Santa Claus
Useful Accessory

About Saint Nicholas

Crozier Crozier

Croziers are a common symbol for a bishop. They represent a shepherd's staff, and are a visible reminder of bishops' responsibility to care for people as the Good Shepherd cares for his sheep. A crozier is a symbol for St. Nicholas, a reminder of the care he had for people.

The crozier may be given to a child helper to hold during the St. Nicholas' talk and activities.
Candy Cane Candy Crozier

Candy canes are really candy croziers.

The oldest explanation goes back to Europe where, it is said, straight candy sticks were bent to make shepherd's crooks (the common symbol for a bishop) that were given to well-behaved cathedral choristers.
Gold chocolate coins Gold Coins

Gold coins, real or chocolate, represent gold Nicholas tossed through the window to rescue three young women from a life of servitude, or even prostitution. Gold is the most common symbol for Saint Nicholas; it is even the symbol for pawnbrokers. Sometimes the gold is shown as three oranges, gold balls, or even apples.

A small leather-like pouch, with real coins, large enough to have weight and noise, could be used. The coins illustrate the dowry story, making motions to toss through a window.
Clementine Orange

Have you ever gotten an orange in the toe of your Christmas stocking? If so, it is a reminder of the gold Nicholas gave to provide dowries for three young women so they wouldn't be sold as slaves (see above). Three oranges, tangerines, clementines, or even apples, represent this gold, and thus are symbols for Saint Nicholas.
Sock Sock

In some versions of the story the gold landed in stockings drying before the fire (in others it was shoes—so European children put shoes out for St. Nicholas treats). This is the origin of hanging stockings for Santa to fill. A real sock like this isn't very big!
Icon of Saint Nicholas Saint Nicholas Icon *

Saint Nicholas looks like this in the East—in Orthodox tradition and for Eastern Rite Catholics. This is how a bishop looks in the Eastern Church—and it is the way Bishop Nicholas would have looked (he lived before the Eastern and Western churches split). Nicholas was Greek and lived in Asia Minor, an area that is now in Turkey. St. Nicholas is a Father of the Faith in the Eastern Church. Though he also brings gifts in Ukraine and Slavic lands. (If your icon shows Jesus and Mary bringing the Gospel Book and the omophorion, time permitting, you might tell about Bishop Nicholas at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea.

Further Possibilities

Sack of grain
Sack of Grain
Famine relief story
Freeing the innocent
Ship or Anchor
Patron saint of sailors
Nicene Creed **
Council of Nicaea

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Pictures Illustrating St. Nicholas' Story ***

St. Nicholas with children
Patron Saint of Children
Austrian postcard
Download .tif file
St. Nicholas with children
Patron Saint of Children
French prayer card
Download .tif file
St. Nicholas with ships
Patron Saint of Sailors
Seamen's Church Institute
Download .tif file
Charity of Saint Nicholas
Gift of Dowry Gold
Bulgarian icon
Download .tif file
Nicholas giving gold
Giving Dowry Gold II
Artist: Fra Angelico
Download .tif file
GNU Free Documentation License
St. Nicholas stopping execution
Saving Innocents
Artist: Ilya Repin
Download .tif file
GNU Free Documentation License

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Relate St. Nicholas to Santa Claus

Santa Doll Santa Doll

Use a Santa doll to talk about similarities and differences between Santa's suit and Saint Nicholas' vestments.
  1. Both are usually red and white;
  2. Nicholas' pointed miter has bent over into a stocking cap (pull the end straight up to show the "point" on Santa's hat);
  3. Both carry bags of gifts;
  4. Both love children.
Candy Crozier

Candy cane (see above)
Child's letter Letter to Santa

The tradition began with children sending letters to St. Nicholas, telling how they had behaved—whether they did their lessons, said their prayers, & obeyed their parents. In some places children put letters to the Christ Child or Santa in their shoes on St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas then delivers the letters to the proper recipient.
Lump of coal Lump of Coal

We're told that Santa leaves coal in naughty children's stockings. St. Nicholas remembers all children, though in Hungary he leaves both treats and some twigs (switch) because no one is either all good nor all bad. In Europe Nicholas scary companions may leave twigs, a potato or wooden spoon.
Large Christmas stocking

Christmas Stocking

Look how much bigger this stocking is! Somehow, Santa seems to be bringing much more these days.

The Christmas stocking could be brought out after the dowry story, showing the contrast between a real sock and our big Christmas stockings. It underscores St. Nicholas as the origin of the Christmas stocking tradition.

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Useful Accessory

Gift Bag Gift Bag

A large festive gift bag makes a handy container for all of the props, as well as reminding us of the gifts Saint Nicholas always brings.

A child helper may watch over the bag, but it needs to be readily accessible to Nicholas.

    Affordable St. Nicholas icons, mounted on wood, are available from St. Isaac of Syria Skete
   ** PDF files to print the Nicene Creed on
parchment or plain paper
*** To download the hi-res .tif files, right click the image and select "Save target as." Allow plenty of time for them to load. To save on a Mac, 1) hold mouse button down over the copy beneath the thumbnail image, 2) choose "Download link to disc" from the pop-up options, 3) save.

See also Illustrative Objects for Saint Nicholas Stories

Jim Couzzourt and Marlin Vander Wilt, both experienced Saint Nicholas representatives, suggested some of these useful storytelling aids.

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