Today is the St. Nicholas Day--the commemoration of the life of the Bishop of Myra. The man who supposedly dropped gold coin into the stockings of three young virgins that were hanging up to dry in order to save them from being sold. There are many legends surrounding most saints (including St. Nicholas), some of them are quite fanciful. It's hard to believe some of the hagiography at times--some is very unbelievable. I personally love that about the stories of the saints. I think we need to be open to the mystery and impossible.
St. Nicholas is the real man behind Santa Claus. Santa Claus gift given arose out of Nicholas' generosity as a follower of Jesus. His life was marked by giving to the poor and needy because he followed Jesus example in living. Unfortunately, Santa Claus has become more associated with "gimme, gimme, gimme" than "give, give, give."
Normal on St. Nicholas Day we talk about who St. Nicholas was with the boys (and often show them the Veggie Tales story...which doesn't quite capture the reality, but carries the same inspirational message of St. Nicholas). We sometimes deliver our shoe boxes of gifts for Operation Christmas Child (which we did this past Saturday), reminding the boys about why we give. And we give them a gift in the spirit of St. Nicholas (in lieu of getting presents from Santa Claus on Christmas Day).
We weren't able to do our normal tradition tonight. Beth is out of state, and Nils' class had a potluck at school for supper. In the meantime, friends had invited us to their house to enjoy their town's lighting of the Christmas tree celebration and then celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas at their house. So we went to the potluck and got to our friends' house in time for their Feast of St. Nicholas liturgy. It was a nice time of worship, feasting (yummy cupcakes!) and meeting old friends and new. And each of us had a gold chocolate coin in our shoe when we left.
So, we ended up not holding tightly to our tradition (which is only a few years old, of course)...which is how traditions are supposed to be. They're supposed to aid us in our observance of something holy or memorable, not make us sticklers for doing something for the sake of upholding ritual.
We'll put up our tree and do our St. Nicholas gifts next week after my wife is home. Probably on Santa Lucia Day. And hopefully, as the boys get older, we can work more opportunities to give into the Christmas season.