Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

The way my parents tell it, we didn't always celebrate St. Nick's Day. In fact there are many people who don't celebrate St. Nick's Day at all (like those of you scratching your heads right now, wondering what the heck I'm talking about). A little bit of research suggests that St. Nick's Day celebrations are common only in very specific parts of the country, like Milwaukee (near my childhood home). Apparently I came home from my (Catholic) grade school one night and told my mom and dad the good news that we should put our shoes out because St. Nick was coming! And so we started recognizing the feast day of St. Nicholas.

The stories about St. Nick are actually pretty neat - for some St. Nick history, go here - how do you not like a guy known for helping the poor and protecting the children?

St. Nick's Day always brought some small gifts as we were growing up, including our yearly ornaments for the Christmas tree. Many years my parents managed to provide ornaments which signified something important that had occurred that year or just reflected some aspect of our personalities. I am so happy to have these ornaments now, walking through a little of my own history as I decorate my tree. This year Harper was old enough to be interested in some of the ornaments and hear their stories. Among others I have a piano from the year I started lessons, a volleyball playing reindeer from the year I first made the high school team, and a compass from the year I went away to college (which makes me well up a bit every year).

For my children St. Nick has gotten in the habit of bringing them an ornament and a holiday book or two. While not the point of St. Nick's Day at all I have found that it serves as a nice Christmas warm up for little kids - reminding them how much fun it is to open presents! :-)

(Rebound LOVES wrapping paper and was practically salivating while waiting for the children to open their gifts.)

Someday Harper is going to ask me about St. Nick and his relation to Santa Claus, which may be hard to satisfactorily explain without blowing Santa's cover. . . for now she has worked out that St. Nick is some sort of helper for Santa and we're letting it go at that.

When I was growing up, St. Nick's Day was how I knew Christmas was REALLY getting close - it's a simple celebration, but one I hope my children will also look back on with a smile someday.

Do any of you put your shoes out for St. Nick?

Edited to add: I had a formatting problem and republished this post about eight times, hopefully it didn't show up eight times in anyone's feed reader!


Giselle said...

We never did this...I'd never heard of it until going to college and meeting some of you from those northern states. Sounds like fun...I always hate giving the kids ornaments on Christmas day..."Hey, here's your ornament. Isn't it cool? Hurry, let's pack it away until next year!"

Anonymous said...

I love the classic baby face!! "Wha...is...happening?"

Liz said...

My mom told me that I came home from kindergarten upset because St. Nick came to all the children except me! My mom grew up in New York and my dad grew up in Indiana and had never heard of St. Nicks. St Nicks day is HUGE over here in Germany and all the kids and parents know about it and if they don't, they find out fast! I think in the states, more than it being a Catholic thing, it is a regional thing - there is huge German influence in Wisconsin so maybe it was brought over way back when? Anyhoo - I think it is a neat tradition and I hope to continue it with my kiddos. Great post and cute pics! :)

Marilyn said...

I'd heard of St Nick's day before, but we never really celebrated it. Maybe once, because I remember the shoe thing. But I'm famous for reading about something and thinking it happened to me...

but this year, we celebrated at our church- and it was MUCH fun. A cool breakfast, some photos, some crafts, and little goodie bags to take home. Yay! We 'played' it as if the St Nick who showed up was indeed Santa- interchangable names and all. The story we agreed to tell- only if asked, because why complicate it if you dont' have to- is that the actual historical St Nick was the original Santa and the Santa today is his descendant. No one asked! We did, however, field a few questions about his watch (?) and none about his wedding ring. hee hee. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL...