Monday, December 6, 2010

What did you find in your shoes this morning?

Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas, the 3rd century bishop of Myra.  In many countries, St. Nicholas visits the children on the eve of his feast day and leaves gifts like oranges, a candy cane, chocolate coins and other small gifts. Many of the gifts have a symbolic meanings.  For example, the foil-covered chocolate coins represent the coins he gave to a poor man who had no dowry money for his three daughters.

In our house, we observe St. Nicholas Day in two ways. My children attend the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program and "meet" St. Nicholas there. They help "dress" one of the men in the church, learning about various parts of a bishop's clothing including the alb, cincture, cope, miter and staff.  After that, he is given a large bag filled with small gifts for all the kids.  The small gifts (which are provided by the parents) are wrapped in holiday-print cloth and tied with a red or green ribbon. Each package has a note attached (also written by the parents).  "St. Nicholas" reads the note, which includes compliments to the child on things she has achieved during the year, and encouragement/gentle coaxing on how he can improve in the upcoming year.  After the kids have all spoken with St. Nicholas, they open their gift bags together.  It is a very special time and the kids look forward to it every year!

This year, our fabric sacks included gold coins, a Kinder (German) cookie, a St. Nicholas bookmark, a candy cane, a small "Squirmie" toy and a CD of saint stories (Glory Stories).  In addition, my son received a card game and my daughter received some clothes for one of her little plush kittens. In the past they have received oranges, nuts, a St. Nicholas icon, book, holy card or ornament.  I try to include something about St. Nicholas each year, no matter how small.

At home, the children put out their shoes before going to bed on December 5.  When they awaken in the morning, they find little gifts nestled in and around their shoes.  This year, they received a St. Nicholas Nutcracker (my find from Costplus World Market!), an Advent story book called  Bartholomew's Passage, a Kinder cookie, chocolate candy coins and a shepherd piece for their Nativity sets.

Today, we will be watching the CCC video on St. Nicholas, reading a story about him, and enjoying some traditional St. Nicholas treats like Pepernoten cookies. My daughter also learned to draw St. Nicholas this morning as part of her homeschooling day.  The drawing turned out so nice that I think I will use it for this year's Christmas cards.  Such a fun day!

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about the Advent book Bartholomew's Passage, check out the link below, which includes reviews of the book. It's the sequel to another Advent book called Jotham's Journey. I have read Jotham's Journey to the kids during Advent for the last couple of years.  We're looking forward to diving into this new book together.

Bartholomew's Passage

Jotham's Journey 

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