Welcome to December everyone!
I love Christmas and the season of Christ’s birth. But like many of you I’m sure, I do not enjoy the commercial hype. And especially the advertising pressure that normalises January debt caused by overspending at Christmas. For us, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, spending time with family and creating some magical, summer, childhood memories.
One of the things we do to simplify as a family is to lessen the importance of Santa. The Young Engineer is at school this year and boy that Jolly Old Fellow is everywhere. I loved the magic of Father Christmas as a child. So my challenge was to shift the Christmas focus without losing the magic.
Our solution is to celebrate St Nicholas day on the 6th of December (some years we celebrate on the 5th or 7th December, can be messy). Children in many parts of Europe celebrate “Saint Nik Klaus” or the Americanised “Santa Claus” at this time. Our version is simple and sweet. We happen to own a Turkish Rug that, according to the very charismatic Turkish salesman, came from the same village St Nicholas was born in. So we all sit on this rug. Read our story about St Nicholas. Then send the children off to search the room/house for hidden socks, each containing one chocolate coin. That’s it.
On Christmas day, our children still have Christmas stocking with gifts in. But we get to receive their gratitude as they know these are from us with great love.
The Secret of St Nicholas, by Ellen Nibali
Value for money
Have you ever wanted to celebrate Christmas without quite so much focus on Santa bringing amazing toys for good boys and girls, but still to keep the magic of giving? This book tells the story of St Nicholas and his secret giving. This book nicely links Santa Claus and the Nativity, without dispelling any Santa traditions.
But even if Santa or Father Christmas is a big part of your family Christmas this book is a great resource. It does have a Christian focus. Nicholas is motivated to save a girl from slavery by the words of Jesus. “Do good deeds in secret”
The author prefaces this book with a note:
St. Nicholas was bishop of Myra, (Turkey) in the fourth century. This story is inspired by an episode recorded by the biographer, Simeon Metaphrastes, in the tenth century, and by the message in the Gospel of Matthew 6:4 – Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
The history of Santa Claus is many centuries long. It encompasses miracles and myths, cultures and politics, flights of fancy and commercial schemes, but it began with St. Nicholas. The author chose this episode because it is key to who St. Nicholas was. Of all the stories about St. Nicholas, scholars suspect this one is actually true.
For children’s questions about Santa Claus, this story inspires with a real man and his heroic deeds. It also traces the connection between Jesus and Santa Claus traditions of today.
The premise of this book is that Nicholas is left an orphan, with three bags of gold coins as his inheritance. He heads off to find his way in the world. Then discovers a girl is being sold as a slave to save her family from financial ruin. He sneaks out in the middle of the night and throws a bag of coins into their house where it lands in one of the girl’s stocking. She is saved, marries and lives happily ever after, or would be except her foolish father wastes all his money again and goes to sell his second daughter. Thankfully, Nicholas hears of this and rescues her in the same way as the first. Then finally the gold is gone again and the third daughter to be sold. But Nicholas still has one bag left. He saves the girl and the father mends his ways (or at least dies before he can waste it all again).
The conclusion has a picture of three modern children opening their Christmas stockings. With the words:
Perhaps best of all were the three good deeds he did in secret. For on Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, boys and girls all over the world rush to see what new good deeds were done in the night. And that began with a boy named Nicholas and his three bags of gold.
The good part about this is that whatever your Christmas traditions this book doesn’t spoil them. Just adds some historical background information. But in a lovely story form, with beautiful pictures.
It would also be a perfect story to read before taking children to put gifts under the Kmart Wishing Tree. Or donate food to a food bank. For older children it provides a good opportunity to discuss the realities of modern human trafficking. A lovely way to embrace the deeper meaning of Christmas.
Awesome or Average: Awesome
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