The calendar tells us it is December. The second candle of the Advent wreath is lit, and many of us are excited for the Christmas season. We are about to celebrate the birth of Christ!
Part of that celebration has come to include giving gifts, attending parties, spending time with family and friends. However, I look forward to the beginning of Advent because today, when we honor one of my favorite saints, Saint Nicholas.
I grew up celebrating St. Nicholas Day. It was like an early mini-Christmas in my family.
As children, we put our shoes outside the bedroom door at night. Waking up on Dec. 6, we would find a simple gift: a small toy or new mittens, a candy cane and fruit. (St. Nick, as well as Santa Claus, always managed to bring fruit for my siblings and me. No shoe or stocking was too small for a giant orange or apple in my house!).
As I got older, I learned more about this saint, who is the basis for the character we know as Santa Claus. St. Nicholas was a 4th-century bishop in what is now Turkey.
Legend has it that he heard of a local man who had fallen on hard times financially. The man was contemplating selling his daughters into prostitution.
During the night Nicholas tossed bags of gold through the window of the man’s home. Because of this St Nicholas is the patron saint of unmarried girls.
As a child I looked forward to St. Nicholas Day because it meant I would receive a special treat. As an adult it is this story of St. Nicholas helping the girls that draws me to him even more.
It’s important for unmarried women and men to know that they are loved and to know that our bodies and lives are worthy of respect. St. Nicholas gave us an example of this love and respect, and when we remember him today we can be examples to others.