Celebrating Saint Nicholas Day
Our family first celebrated Saint Nicholas Day about twenty-five years ago. We gathered with a cherished circle of friends for a post-Thanksgiving meal that didn’t have anything to do – or so we thought – with Saint Nicholas. Our hostesses – two Franciscan sisters – gave each child a stocking filled with goodies. We sang carols, told stories, and laughed heartily. After repeating the celebration the following year, complete with stockings, it soon evolved into an annual tradition that began to fall around December 6th, feast of Saint Nicholas. Over the years we added new traditions and dropped others as the children all grew up and ventured out onto their own. A couple of the rituals endured, however. We always share a meal, and we join together in prayer that includes a Saint Nicholas Day blessing.
Legends of Saint Nicholas abound. One of the most famous involves the kindly saint leaving bags of gold on the doorstep of a poor family, thus providing the daughters with dowries so that they could marry. This was more than a matchmaking venture, but rather one that spared the impoverished girls from being sold into slavery.
The candy cane is a treat often associated with Saint Nicholas Day. Its distinctive shape is attributed to a 17th century German choirmaster, who bent the candy into the form of a shepherd’s staff and gave it to children attending church services. The crook symbolizes the gentle image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. As shepherd of his people, a bishop carries a hook-shaped staff called a crosier. Since Saint Nicholas was also a bishop, the candy cane serves as a perfect symbol for this patron and protector of children.
This Sunday, my husband, Ron, and I will gather once again with our friends for “St. Nick’s Day” – a celebration of friendship and love, joy and generosity. It’s a tradition we wouldn’t think of missing.
In the spirit of Saint Nicholas, involve your family or class in a Christmas project that provides gifts for children who live in impoverished circumstances. Remember the children each time you gather together to light the Advent wreath.
Engage your family or class in a discussion about favorite seasonal traditions. Which ones have endured over the years? What makes them special?
Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day with a blessing and sharing of candy canes. Download my complimentary Saint Nicholas Day Blessing of Candy Canes! Comes in both Spanish and English translations.