Saint Nicholas Day comes on December 6th every year. Coming as it does near the beginning of Advent it is a wonderful opportunity to call children and their families to the sanctuary for a no-rehearsal required, child-friendly worship event. It also puts the focus of the season on giving rather than getting. And, it is not a bad match for the prophecy and John the Baptist texts for the first weeks of Advent! In its simplest celebration children are told the story of Saint Nicholas and invited to leave their shoes in the lobby of the church for the remainder of worship. During worship those shoes are filled with chocolate coins and a clementine or other fruit. (This may be a job for a youth group.) Some congregations add a collection of giving activities following worship or during the church school hour. In comments on a Facebook post about this day, Sue Van Oss listed her congregation’s activities for the day - filling ladies gloves with candy canes for a abuse shelter, stuffing warm socks with granola bars for a shelter, making cards for seniors, even preparing meals for a shelter. Another church sets up a huge assembly line in which families fill special holiday food bags to be given out at the food bank and several shelters. The possibilities are endless!
It is also a good opportunity to introduce Nicholas the Saint. Children are interested that Nicholas who was quite wealthy got his start caring for other when he was a child, then dedicated his whole life to that ministry. There are all sorts of colorful stories of his aiding groups of people who then adopted him as their patron saint. In one he saved three sisters from being sold because their family did not have the money for dowries for them. Nicholas secretly threw a bag of gold through each of their windows at night. Particularly this story encourages children to look for ways they can secretly give gifts to people around them. It also provides them with a way to continue loving and following Saint Nicholas once they learn the secret about Santa Claus.Saint Nicholas, by Ann Tompert, is one good collection of short stories about him. An Author’s Note at the end traces how he morphed into Santa Claus over the centuries. The book is much too long to be read in its entirety in worship. Instead read one or two of the stories or simply use it as background material for your own story telling. (I found several copies at the local public library.)