Dutch tradition of eating a festive dinner with family or
friends December 5, St. Nicholas Eve. Tell the story of the
saint's habit of secret giving and care for the poor. If the
group is large enough to accommodate a disappearance, include a
personal visit from St. Nicholas in his bishop's robe and mitre.
He could give a mock lecture on good behavior, or he could
remember with the children (of all ages) some of their times of
triumph or struggle with their behavior in the year past. He
then produces treats and the traditional gold chocolate coins
from his sack to pass out or scatter on the floor.
self-reflection and the growth of conscience in older children
by making a St. Nicholas Calendar with them. This calendar
extends only from the beginning of Advent to December 6 and is a
simple large grid with boxes for each day. The children may
decorate the edges with anything having to do with St. Nicholas.
They then color in each day's square as the days pass, using
their favorite color to indicate "good" events in each
day, and their least favorite for the "bad." Parents
can help by encouraging children to talk about why they used the
colors as they did, and about what helps make a day
stocking-hanging ritual comes directly from the St. Nicholas
tradition, consider moving it to St. Nicholas Eve. You will be
providing a welcome foretaste of Christmas to come as you return
significance to the act of small, simple giving. Let everyone
into the fun of being St. Nicholas to each other by buying or
making small presents for each other that you take turns
"secretly" placing in the stockings after bedtime.
treats early and freeze them. Then, celebrate a visit from St.
Nicholas with a special breakfast the morning of the sixth.
Include on your table a sample of each kind of cookie for each
person. Use your imagination and the time available to plan as
festive or as simple a celebration as you like. Keep the
remaining cookies frozen until Christmas Day and serve them
throughout the twelve days of Christmas instead of during
tradition of anonymous gift-giving in your family by watching
for ways each can help the others secretly during Advent. Be St.
Nicholases to each other with small gifts or notes of
appreciation or encouragement or by making a dreaded chore
Hold a St.
Nicholas Eve celebration for the whole church family. Meet for a
festive potluck, catered dinner, or dessert, then tell the story
of St. Nicholas or one of the legends of his life in story,
drama, or puppetry.** Climax the evening with a visit from St.
Nicholas, who first speaks to the children regarding their
behavior, then empties his bag of treats among them.
With or without
other St. Nicholas activities, produce one of the legends of St.
Nicholas as a miracle play early in Advent.**
people's groups in the practice of secret giving by discovering
needs in the congregation or community and working to fill them
as a group. Then dispatch the young people in pairs to deliver
the gifts secretly, so that the recipients do not know who the
giver is. Or try an Advent version of the "Secret Pal"
game with an adult study or fellowship group. Each member puts a
paper with her or his name into a basket, which is then passed
around so that each member can draw out a name. Each person then
gives a small gift of some symbolic value or performs an act of
kindness sometime during Advent for the person whose name she or
he drew. Unlike the standard secret pal game, however, the
givers in the St. Nicholas game are not necessarily revealed,
and giver and receiver may experience the joys (and perhaps
discomforts) of a truly free gift.
groups already have cookie exchanges, in which each member bakes
one type of cookie, and everyone has a chance to build a tray
from all the different varieties to take home. This tradition,
already a blessing for the many women who are unhappy with the
time and expense of elaborate holiday baking, can be a spark
that encourages families to celebrate St. Nicholas Day in their
homes. Hold the cookie exchange December 3 or 4 and send each
woman home with an explanation of the St. Nicholas tradition and
one or two suggestions for a simple home celebration. The
cookies, of course, provide the treats.
Nicholas Day Christmas