The Feast of St. Nicholas is a super beautiful day for Byzantine Catholics. He is actually one of the most popular saints in the Eastern Churches. Today on TheByzantineLife.com we talk about the history of St. Nicholas, traditions, and what our family is doing with Santa Claus.
Who is St. Nicholas?
Google lists “Is St. Nicholas a real person” as common question this time of year. Indeed, he is! He lived and breathed in the early 4th century. St. Nicholas was born to a wealthy family. When he received his inheritance, he passed it on to charitable causes. Then he chose to pursue a religious vocation, eventually becoming the Archbishop of Myra. He is known for being a strong defender of the faith an orthodoxy. During the Nicene Council he is remembered for speaking out against the Arian heresy.
St. Nicholas is sometimes called the Wonderworker, as he performed many miracles during his lifetime. He is honoured in both the Eastern and Western Churches. In fact, he is so highly honoured in the East that he is featured in my triptychs with Jesus on one panel, the Theotokos on another, and St. Nicholas on the third. The cover photo for this post shows one such triptych.
At some point, in translating St. Nicholas’ name, Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus. His image became further corrupted when Coca Cola came into the picture and changed his beautiful bishop’s garments to a red coat and pants. But I digress…
How do we Celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day
St. Nicholas Day takes place on December 6th. The night before, Children leave their shoes outside. These are filled with fruits and candies and coins by the morning. This tradition stems from one of St. Nicholas’ miracles. God asked St. Nicholas to save three daughters from being sold by leaving three bags of gold coins outside their home as their dowries. This is also probably the origin of stockings used at Christmas.
There are often large events at Byzantine Churches or in the community on this day. I’ve seen many visits from Saint Nicholas. And I’m talking dressed in gold bishop’s vestments, not a Santa suit. We take this time to remind children of the real St. Nicholas’ life. You may want to check your local Catholic store for a St. Nicholas picture book. If you’d rather order online, some Amazon affiliate links are included below to St. Nicholas books and icons.
Another great way to celebrate St. Nicholas’ day is by doing what he would do: caring for the poor and children! Perhaps your family could donate gifts, time, or money to your local crisis nursery, pregnancy options, or homeless shelter.
You can find extra ideas for how your family can celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day at home at http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/celebrate-at-home/
Books and Icons and DIY St. Nicholas Products
St. Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins: How St. Nicholas is more than just the generous giver we know him as – he spent his life becoming a true icon of Jesus Christ! And The Legend of St. Nicholas: This picture book goes through the life of St. Nicholas and includes a prayer for the saint’s intercession at the end. Very child friendly versions of the miracles.
What Our Family is Doing About Santa Claus
My husband and I both grew up taught to believe in Santa Claus. I think that was probably fine, and finding out there was no man riding around on a sleigh every year didn’t ruin our lives. Also, I see how it can be a lot of fun planing Easter egg hunts, partially eaten Santa cookies, and sparkly tooth fairy money. However, we decided that as a family we don’t want to lie to our children. Sure, we will try and shield them from the news and other traumatizing information while they are young. But we believe Christmas, Easter, and other holidays can be special and magical without us lying to our kids.
We aren’t going to judge other parents, or you, if you want to keep the Santa Claus tradition going. It just isn’t for our family. Matt Fradd has a thoughtful podcast available on YouTube called 84: Is it okay to lie to my kids about Santa Claus.
Other ByzLife News
So I hope you enjoyed this week’s article. You may also be interested in reading about The Nativity Fast, How to Make Your Own Icon Corner, or last week’s article announcing that we are having another baby! Don’t forget to pin this article on Pinterest, and share on your other social media websites! Let me know in the comments if your family celebrates the Feast of St. Nicholas!
Please note that the amazon links in this post are affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase items from this article or anything of amazon within 24 hours of clicking the links, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. That money goes towards supporting this blog.