Using Books to Talk about St. Nicholas
by Elizabeth Foss
I introduce Tomie dePaola's Country Angel Christmas on the Feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6. There is definitely a sense of Advent as a time of preparation as all the angels in heaven are preparing for the celestial Christmas celebration. The littlest angels are told to be scarce while the barn angels ready the animals for the procession, the kitchen angels bake and the music angels rehearse carols. It is St. Nicholas, in heaven, who finds the littlest angels the all-important job of providing light for the celebration.
With this book, we like to compare an icon of St. Nicholas with dePaola's drawing in Country Angel Christmas. I encourage the children to draw their own renditions of the patron saint of children. The ambitious among us would take a field trip to an Eastern Orthodox church or a museum to really study icons.
No conversation about St. Nicholas at Christmas time is complete without reading The Miracle of Saint Nicholas. Alexi is a Russian child whose grandmother tells him of the soldiers who closed St. Nicholas Church many years ago. When he asks why they can't celebrate Christmas there this year, she tells him that it would take a miracle. The little boy believes in miracles. I purchased this book to give to my children on the feast of St. Nicholas. We have dear friends who are Eastern Orthodox and, among other things, the boys are learning a true appreciation of Eastern religious art. I am especially pleased with the icons throughout the text. It is nice to see both the art and the faith of the Russians so beautifully depicted here.
By Elizabeth Foss, a freelance writer from Northern Virginia
From "Christmas Books to Share During Advent," Arlington Catholic Herald, Copyright © 2001. All rights reserved. Used by permission.