I've run this blog post on St. Nicholas before, but that's fine. I don't have much more to say about this holiday. And like many of us, I'm a bit pressed for time this week, between the end of Thanksgiving travels, relatives arriving tomorrow, and coming into the home stretch of several academic terms.
Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas, a good day to stop and think about the Christmas season which is upon us. I need to start slowing down or the season will have zoomed on by before I have a chance to catch my breath.
It's always a bit of a surprise to realize that Saint Nicholas was a real person. But indeed he was. In the fourth century, he lived in Myra, then part of Greece, now part of Turkey; eventually, he became Bishop of Myra. He became known for his habit of gift giving and miracle working, although it's hard to know what really happened and what's become folklore. Some of his gift giving is minor, like leaving coins in shoes that were left out for him. Some were more major, like resurrecting three boys killed by a butcher.
My favorite story is the one of the poor man with three children who had no dowry for them. No dowry meant no marriage, and so, they were going to have to become prostitutes. In the dead of night, Nicholas threw a bag of gold into the house. Some legends have that he left a bag of gold for each daughter that night, while some say that he gave the gold on successive nights, while some say that he gave the gold as each girl came to marrying age.
Saint Nicholas is probably most famous for his associations with Christmas. Today, all over Europe, the gift-giving season begins. I had a friend in grad school who celebrated Saint Nicholas Day by having each family member open one present on the night of Dec. 6. It was the first I had heard of the feast day, but I was enchanted.
We don't give gifts much, in my various social circles, but if I did, I'd want to start on St. Nicholas day and not end until Epiphany, Jan. 6.
Saint Nicholas is also the patron saint of sailors, who used to leave each other by saying "May Saint Nicholas hold the tiller!"
A friend posted this image on Facebook, Santas happily coexisting with Buddhas. I love this idea of an ecumenical Santa scene!
So, on this day, may we be led by the spirit of generosity, especially generosity to the poor. May Saint Nicholas hold our tillers and guide us to open our purses and wallets and bags of gold.
feeling the feelings…
4 months ago