December 6th

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas.  It is a feast day that I have loved since I was a child.

When I was five years old my family moved to Germany and that’s where I was introduced to St. Nicholas on this date.  German children honor the spirit of the Bishop Nicholas because he favored children and championed their cause in a world that largely thought them insignificant.  Bishop Nicholas, so the story goes, would bring food and little gifts to poor children to help them survive the cold winters.  He would ride by on his horse in the dark of evening and throw gifts through open windows, or leave them on the doorsteps of homes where children were cold and hungry.

To this day, St. Nicholas is honored as the patron saint of children, and children in many lands throughout the globe put their shoes out on their doorsteps in hopes St. Nicholas will ride by on his horse and leave them something.

It is a tradition that we carried on with our own children, and so this day has many special memories.  When the children were young, I used to occupy them with washing the dinner dishes, or baking cookies after homework, while my husband would quietly sneak out the back door with a small bag of goodies for each child and go around the house to deposit them in their waiting shoes on the front porch.  Then he would rap on the door with a long stick and run back around to be in the house when the children realized someone had knocked.

Is it any wonder that Santa Claus comes from the memory of this great man who had such compassion and such love for children?

We would do well to remember where the tradition of gift-giving originated.  Who is hurting and hungry in our family, our neighborhood, our city, and our world today?  Who needs our attention and the gifts of our generosity, our time, our love?

In the spirit of St. Nicholas, let us do what we can this Advent.  Such grace of generosity has been with us through many centuries and will continue still if we open our hearts to extend our generosity as well.

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