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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Virtual Advent Tour - Saint Nicholas

What is your first memory of Santa Claus?  Was it in the mall at a "Santa's Workshop"?  Was it in a book or a movie?  Was it setting out cookies or digging through your stocking on Christmas morning?  I'm not sure what my earliest memory of Santa is, but my most clear one is the year Santa actually stopped in for a visit on Christmas Eve.

I must have been around 4 years old...maybe 5 or maybe 3.  I just remember being at a neighbor's home enjoying Christmas Even festivities when the adults began to make a big commotion about something.

"Did you hear that?"
"What could that be?"
"Oh, there's someone on the roof!"
"Could that be Santa Claus?"

Just as it began to dawn on me what they were saying, in the front door walks this huge man in a red outfit...Santa Claus!  I remember feeling a little apprehensive, but after some coaxing I approached him and shared with him what I hoped to get on Christmas.  I have no idea what I asked for!  (Mom, do you remember?)  The magic of the moment melted over me slowly.  It is one of the crystalline childhood memories...something you are certain you'll never forget.

After I had kids, we continued the Santa tradition, but adapted it a bit for our family.  We hoped to take a little bit of the "Santa" hype off of Christmas morning by celebrating Saint Nicholas' Day on December 6th.  This is not a custom that either my husband or I grew up with, but our kids have really come to enjoy it.

So what is our Saint Nicholas celebration like?

Following an old European custom we set out shoes on the night of December 5th to be filled with small gifts by the good Saint during the night.  In the morning, we enjoy a special feast day breakfast (the menu varies, but we ALWAYS have hot cocoa with a candy cane in it).  During the day, the kids and I often make gingerbread cookies.  This is the day the first of our real Christmas decorations come out (before that we ONLY have the Advent wreath and a few other Advent items): a small collection of "Santas" displayed together on our mantle.  Christmas "blooms" in our home with little bits of decorations coming out during the Advent season.

As we've grown into this "new" tradition, we've discovered that getting one or two smallish gifts early in the season really has helped relieve a bit of the "wait" for Christmas.   We also enjoy that by celebrating Saint Nicholas rather than just Santa Claus, we get to celebrate a REAL person's life.  And, most importantly, it provides a little separation between Santa and CHRISTmas.  It isn't Santamas, after all!

Would you like to celebrate Saint Nicholas or just learn more?

Saint Nicholas Day is coming up this week on Tuesday, December 6th.  It doesn't take much to start a new tradition...just do a little research and then gather up your family's shoes (and a few small items to tuck inside them)!

Here are some resources:
:-: The Saint Nicholas Center has a huge website with online stories, book recommendations, crafts, and a catalog.

:-: There are some lovely children's books about Saint Nicholas.  My favorites are:  Saint Nicholas by Ann Tompert and Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki.

Happy Saint Nicholas Day to you!

  If you enjoy what you read here, poke around my blog a little bit and you'll find lots of other posts about Advent from the past few years: 

(Advent is up currently, I plan to add more during
this upcoming year.  You'll find links to several Advent
Carnivals from past years.)

(note this one began a couple of weeks ago 
and will run through Epiphany, January 6th.)


sprite said...

I think St. Nicholas Day seems like a nice way to celebrate the holiday.

Thanks for sharing your family's tradition.

Virtual Advent said...

I used to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day with a friend in high school. She was from a country where it was the norm. I haven't really thought about it since!

Thanks for joining in for the tour!

Kailana said...

Sorry, the Virtual Advent was me...

Marg said...

My earliest Santa memory is of big family Christmases where one of my uncles would dress up. We knew it was them, but we loved. Moving away from my family when I was about 10 meant Christmas was a bit of a let down after that!

Thanks so much for posting about your St Nicholas tradition and for participating on the tour.

Christa @ Hooked on Books said...

What a neat tradition! Thanks for sharing it with us!

Fiona said...

What a wonderful way to celebrate! Bringing reality back to the festive season

That corgi :) said...

I do hope you find out from your mom what you asked for Christmas that first year you remember seeing Santa Claus. That would be a great ending to the story (and then curious to know if you got it too as a gift that year!)

Growing up, we put socks out for St. Nicholas on 12/6. We would get nuts and candy in it.

Thanks for sharing your memories and traditions! Enjoyed reading them!


Chrisbookarama said...

Sounds like you're having fun with the 'new' Saint Nicolas tradition.

Court said...

Wow, that's such a nice way to celebrate the season! Thanks for sharing that with us!

cat said...

This is a neat idea and a great way to celebrate all of the celebrations during this year. :)

kaye said...

How fun, and I hope you had a happy St. Nicholas day yesterday. kaye—the road goes ever ever on