"Friend of children, giver of gifts, climber of chimneys, etc." Today is the feast day of Bishop Nicholas of Myra, (Turkey) who died on this day in 326 AD. Many European countries celebrate his life of generosity and service by giving gifts on this day rather than on Christmas day. Children leave their shoes out by the door or the fire place and find them filled with chocolate. Read more about his life and miracles here. See a photo of St. Nicholas on his white horse in the Netherlands here on flickr.
My little boys will find bubble gum and lollipops in their shoes this morning because they prefer that to the almond and peanut filled chocolate that I have on hand. There are clementines too for sweetness and joy. I cut out pictures of St. Nick from old Christmas cards and left them there as his calling card. We are going to breakfast with Santa at our church this morning and bringing my dad. Telling the story of Nicholas, with his loving heart and kind, giving spirit takes the emphasis off the shopping and excess that sometimes threatens to overwhelm us this time of year. This is one of the fun little traditions I love to celebrate.
We've also been reading the children's Advent devotional books published by Creative Communications. What Color is Christmas? and Which Way is Christmas? are beautiful books with full color illustrations in the style of I Spy and Where's Waldo? Each two-page spread features Bible readings, a short paragraph on the themes of the day that retell the Gospel story from Genesis through Jesus' life, and beautiful, engaging search-and-find puzzles. My parent's church gave us one and our church gave the other. My boys love them.
What are you doing to prepare for Christmas?