DPP ’11//St Nicholas Day Shoes

Never having participated in the celebration of St Nicholas Day, I was really excited to spend some time talking with Alex about the real St Nick. Seeing the story of his life spelled out makes so much more sense than my convoluted understanding of Santa Claus as the bright, shiny, down the chimney, giver of all good things. Expectations can be so high for the holidays. And we ALL know that expectations are often broken or unmet in the way we were envisioning. This all leading to temper tantrum city or at least more culturally and developmentally acceptable pouting in the adult version.

So, we gave it a go this year. Alex put out his one pair of shoes—odor producing, sand-filled and all—to see if St. Nicholas came. As I left for my meeting last night, I noticed the shoes on the front porch (Alex made it clear that we didn’t want someone to sneak in our house).

Later, though, they were relocated to the hallway. Nothing too big filled the shoes this morning, just some pictures to color, an orange, a few marbles for the “yeh” jar and some chocolate coins. But the chance to talk about the life of someone worth celebrating, remembering and emulating was well worth it. And frankly, after reading this post, aka Conviction 101, it made me want to bag everything and regroup for the holidays. Just many things to think through and decide about for the future when it comes to approaching the insanity of this season.

Wish I could say my eldest doesn’t have a slight tantrum when the day’s Advent activity doesn’t involve presents or treats or gifts or adventures, but….it is still a process.

In case you want a little background on St Nicholas, here are a few tidbits. There are also some great books and activities on this website.

Today is St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas lived in the fourth century, and he was the archbishop of Myra in Lycia (which is now Turkey). There are all kinds of stories about him, but one of the most famous is that there was a poor man who could not afford a dowry for his three daughters, which meant they would have to be abandoned to prostitution. St. Nicholas didn’t want to humiliate the man by giving him charity in public, so he left purses of gold in the man’s house at night — according to one version of the story, he dropped them down the chimney, and in another, one of the daughters had set out her stockings to dry and the gold was put in them. And so St. Nicholas, the bringer of anonymous gifts, inspired Jolly Old St. Nick, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus.

St. Nicholas Day is celebrated in many European countries and in American cities with German influence like Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. On the evening of December 5th, children put out their shoes, and on this morning, they wake up to find those shoes filled with small gifts from St. Nick — chocolates and cookies, fruit, marbles or other small toys.

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