Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nicholas came last night ... and I forgot to set out my shoes!

Today is St. Nicholas Day! For those of you who don't know, St. Nicholas lived in the fourth century, and was the archbishop of Myra (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 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 countries and in some American cities with German influence. On the evening of December 5th, children put out their shoes, and in the morning, they wake up to find those shoes filled with small gifts from St. Nick: chocolates and cookies, fruit or small toys. When our children were little, they'd set their shoes in the hall outside their bedroom doors just before bed. In the morning, there would be small bags of wrapped candy, usually red and green. They also got ornaments for the Christmas tree. It was a fun tradition; one I always looked forward to! And another one of the things I miss now that they're grown up.

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