A Visit from St. Nicholas

Wait…is it Christmas already?  How can St. Nicholas have visited?

Never fear.  We haven’t entered some wormhole that transported us to Dec. 25 (believe me, I would be SOL it that happened b/c I still have lots of shopping and wrapping to do).   Today, December 6, is St. Nicholas’ Day.  The day gets its name from St. Nicholas of Myra, known for his gifts and miracles and later the patron saint of children among other groups.  December 6 was considered to be the day he worked many miracles and over time, Europeans developed the tradition that children would leave out their shoes, and if they had been good, they would receive a small treat; if they had been bad, they would receive a visit from one of  St. Nicholas’ less friendly companions that included coal or switches.

Hmm, the tradition sounds a little familiar.

Holding tightly to Kevin

J’s family is European, so he grew up with the tradition of St. Nicholas Day, and it’s a tradition we have started with Daniel.  Last night before bed when Daniel was saying goodnight to the “Kiss-miss twee,” J brought out a pair of his shoes, put them in front of the fireplace and told Daniel the story of St. Nicholas.

This morning before we raced out the door to preschool, we told Daniel to see if St. Nicholas had left him anything.  He was delighted to find Kevin, the clumsy crane who works in the Sodor Steamworks in his shoes. Honestly, delighted doesn’t do justice to his expression.  He was thrilled, and J and I were so happy to see his delight.  It’s a small taste of what we hope to see on his face on Christmas Day.  I know he is still too little to understand a lot of what Christmas means and what is going on, but he is beginning to, and we are really looking forward to this Christmas.

He took Kevin with him in the car and played with him all the way, forsaking his usual companions of Alpha Pig and Juliet the Cat.

Well done, St. Nicholas.

***

I know there is a growing group of parents who choose to buck the Santa story, whether for religious reasons or out of a desire not to perpetuate a lie to their children.

To each family its own, I suppose, but my family will include Santa Claus in its Christmas celebrations.  J and I look forward to sprinkling reindeer food with Daniel this year and one year going so far as to leave boot prints near the fireplace.  My worry is not that Daniel will feel betrayed when he realizes that Santa is a myth but that he won’t be able to believe long enough in our increasingly cynical culture.

Christmas, to me, is about family and warmth.  It is about miracles and wishes and yes, mystery.  It is about revelry and celebration of the death of the current year and the birth of the new. And it’s about magic.

The development of the modern Christmas celebration and Santa legend isn’t very old and to some extent, it symbolizes the acknowledgement of children as members of society instead of annoyingly small and useless humans unable to contribute. However, what Santa symbolizes – fun, mischief, gifts, magic and merriment – is far, far older.

2011 has been a dark year for many people.  We’re all a little or a lot poorer.  We’ve watched our country struggle.  We watched our politicians fail to do their jobs.  We’ve watched beloved sports figures destroy their careers for committing horrifying crimes.  We’ve seen politicians shot for their beliefs.  Even if you haven’t been impacted by natural disasters or the economy, it’s difficult not to feel a little anxious.

Isn’t a little magic what we all need in this time of darkness and uncertainty?

Daniel admires the tree

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