Our family loves celebrating St. Nicholas day, instead of the commercialized “Santa Claus” idea that is so prevalent these days. We surprise our little ones with the oranges in their stockings/shoes! Today’s guest post is from Nada “Mama” Sheppard, as she shares how their family celebrates simply.
With the birth of our daughter, Papa Sheppard and I have been thinking of the different ways we plan to celebrate the birth of Our Savior with her on December 25th. What traditions should we partake in? What festivities should we celebrate? How can we incorporate both of our families into this one joyous occasion?
Traditional methods, such as feasting, singing, attending church, reading the Bible, advent calendars, praying, and visiting loved ones are of course to be maintained. But long line-ups, broken budgets, $8.00 cards, and overspending are not our ideal ways of celebrating the greatest gift Our Heavenly Father ever gave us.
This is the last holiday that should be so materialized, and yet we are overwhelmed with unnecessary guilt over how much we spend at this time of year.
It quickly became apparent to us that we wanted to instill a joy in Little Sheep, but not of plastic toys, of tiny reindeer, and exorbitant amounts of sugar (though in moderation, a few holiday treats are fine).
What we wanted, instead, was to teach her the joy of Christ and his Miraculous birth. But in order to do that, we will have to step away from the wider path, which is led by Santa Claus, and take the narrow road (Matt. 7:13), led by Jesus.
So in order to combat the materialism of the holidays, but still maintain some festive fun, we decided to celebrate St. Nicholas on December 6th.
Credit: The St. Nicholas Center
Unfortunately, the story of St. Nicholas is not as rosy and cheerful as that of our good buddy Santa. St. Nicholas was born in 270 AD, and died in 347 AD (aged 77). Other than the fact that he was the Bishop of Myra, a part of modern-day Turkey, very little factual information known about him exists today.
However, the legend and folklore are what intrigue us most. One such story goes as this:
A poor man had three lovely daughters who all wished to marry. However, because their father was too poor to afford the dowry required, all three girls were doomed to a loveless life (and quite possibly a career in prostitution simply in order to feed themselves).
When St. Nicholas heard this, he gathered enough money to provide a dowry for the first girl, and then waited outside the house until it was dark. Once so, he found an open window and threw in the purse of gold. When the family discovered it the next morning, they were overjoyed and notified the suitor of the first girl.
The next night, St. Nicholas did the same thing, sneaking up after dark and tossing the purse of gold through an open window. Again, the family was overjoyed and happily arranged for the second daughter’s wedding.
Now the father of the girls wishes to thank the man who was throwing in the money, and so he made plans to hide and watch for the generous saint. But St. Nicholas heard of this, so instead of hiding, he climbed onto the roof and dropped the gold purse for the third girl down the chimney.
When the family arose the next morning and had not found any money for the third daughter’s dowry, they were understandably upset, but considered themselves blessed by the generosity already received. The youngest daughter then went to retrieve her laundry, which she had left hanging in front of the fireplace the night before. Imagine her surprise when she discovered the purse of gold in her stocking!
Credit: The St. Nicholas Center
As such, Papa Sheppard and I intend to celebrate with simple, beautiful gifts and stockings on December 6th, the feast day of this generous saint, and on December 25th, celebrate the birth of our Beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.
We will reserve this day for friends, family, Bible stories, songs, and most specifically, Jesus. The dazzle of gifts and the stress of the holidays will be over for us and we can instead celebrate with our families what really matters on this special day.
How are you planning to celebrate?
Nada “Mama” Sheppard is a fulltime Jesus-lover, wife to Michael (“Papa”) and mother to Naomi (“Little Sheep”). She spends her time giggling at her daughter and making eyes at her husband, and is mastering the art of one-armed housekeeping.