Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

It is a special day of rejoicing for this family.  It is the fourth anniversary of my eldest son's trip to the ER and the begining of  his journey as a diabetic.  The nurses in the PICU asked him what day it was (in this way they can measure the patient's cognizance--he was in and out of consciousness that first day) and he said, "Saint Nicholas Day."  Of couse, it being a Baptist hospital, they did not understand.  They thought he was confused and thought it was Christmas.  We laughed a little and explained that today was indeed the feast day of St. Nicholas, the man who's image and generous deeds would evolve into Santa Claus. 

We rejoice on this day and say a special thank you prayer to this special saint in heaven who watched over our son that year.  Today, we set out the kids shoes like we did when living in Germany.  The kids receive candy and one small toy to enjoy this special day in Advent.  In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one." 

"Who is St. Nicholas?"
"The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

"Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th..."

"Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need."

"One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver."

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