A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided to reevaluate our Advent and Christmas traditions and to be more intentional about how we celebrated Christmas and included jolly-old-Saint-Nicholas. The first year or two I tried to make a big deal out of both Christmas and the feast of St. Nick: leaving a gift and candy in each shoe on December 6 and incorporated all of the usual Santa traditions at Christmas. I wanted every celebration to be exciting and full of magic, and my husband wanted our celebrations to have deep meaning.
One of my husband’s chief concerns was that the Saint Nicholas we celebrated on December 6 was very different from the one who appeared at Christmas. And I saw that he was right. When I took a step back, it was clear that on December 6 we were celebrating a saint, and on December 25, we were visited by a magical gift-giving elf. This disconnect wasn’t intentional, but we knew we needed to adjust how we celebrated.
Going on a Mission
We decided that we would focus on Saint Nicholas as just that, a saint; a disciple of Jesus who shared in the mission of Christ and wants to help us share in that mission, too. Now we look at Saint Nicholas, on his feast day and also at Christmas, through the lens of his mission: devotion to charity, to the truth, and to Jesus Christ.
On December 6, our children wake to find an invitation from Saint Nicholas to share in his mission to care for the poor and the least among us. In their shoes they find a Christmas list for a local child, money to buy gifts and a little candy treat to enjoy while they are off on their mission. Then we go out, like Saint Nicholas, and buy gifts for our Christmas child. It’s a great opportunity to share about the life of Saint Nicholas and how he became a saint. We wrap the gifts and pray for the little girl or boy, asking for Saint Nicholas’s intercession.
On Christmas, Saint Nicholas returns to help us celebrate the birth of the little baby born in Bethlehem. He reminds us to keep Jesus as the center, to take joy in giving to others, and he prays with us (and all the angels in saints) at Christmas Mass. And our dear heavenly friend leaves each child an ornament to add to our tree, a book to help form her mind or her faith, and some yummy treats. The rest of their gifts come from family and friends, people who have learned from the joy and generosity of this great saint.
Sharing in the Mission for Life
One thing we love about this new tradition is that it can help our children develop a relationship with Saint Nicholas, one they’ll never me “too old” for. They don’t have to lost the wonder of Christmas, but can be invited to share in the mission of Saint Nicholas in a new way, as older siblings and someday as parents themselves.
This really is one of the best times to be Catholic; our faith gives depth and richness to all our celebrations.
How does your family incorporate Saint Nicholas into your celebrations?
Read our other Advent 2017 articles.
Copyright 2017 Megan Swaim