The Feast of St. Nicholas


A legacy of generosity and love


“In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” ~ Acts 20:35

On the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, I wanted to share a few thoughts and a reflection, so that perhaps as a family you might find your own meaning in the stories of this beloved Saint.

I have a couple of favorite saints. In an earlier blog post, you read about St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, whom people affectionately refer to as simply “Philippine”. Of course, St. Francis is also a favorite. And my experiences as a child, and even as an adult, make St. Nicholas one of my favorite saints.

Some of you may have St. Nicholas traditions at home. I will be polishing my shoes today and to put in front of my fireplace this evening so that St. Nicholas can come to fill them and to bring me my stocking overnight! My parents brought their traditions for how St. Nicholas Day and Christmas would be celebrated from their native Hungary, for it was Nicholas who brought the stockings and gifts on December 6 and Baby Jesus and the host of angels that brought the Christmas tree on Christmas eve.

Growing up, Nicholas was our Santa Claus. He carried a sack (and had a side-kick who delivered “switches” rather than coal) and delivered our stocking, in which were chocolate coins (to represent the dowry he paid for the three daughters), an orange, some nuts, and maybe a gift of socks or pjs or something practical.

Nicholas allows me to find a balance between the ever-more-commercialization of Christmas/Santa Claus and Advent leading to Christmas. Nicholas is the tender-hearted bishop of Myrna who paid of the dowry for not one, but three sisters in a family. From the facts surrounding this story comes the tradition of finding gold coins in shoes and stockings on December 6, for it was believed that Nicholas threw the bags of gold into the home through an open window, where they landed in either stockings hung up to dry on the mantle or in shoes by the window. He was known for his generosity to those in need, his dedication to protecting children, and his concern for sailors and ships, making him the patron saint of young women, children, and sailors, amongst others.

Nicholas has a special place in Advent. He is an Advent saint because his feast day of December 6 (the anniversary of his death) always falls in early Advent, and this year is on the second Sunday of Advent (though the Church moves his feast day to December 7 if it falls on a Sunday). But he is also an Advent saint because he was a faithful follower of Christ. His life reflected the way each of us is called to show God’s love to others, especially those in need. His parents died when Nicholas was young, leaving him with a large inheritance. Following Jesus’s words to, “sell what you own, and give the money to the poor,” (Matthew 19:21), Nicholas did just that.

St. Nicholas showed his gratitude for God’s gifts by giving to others. What gifts can you and your family share for the betterment of others during this season of Advent?

A Prayer for Children

God, we pray that through the
intercessions of St. Nicholas
you will guide and protect our children.
Keep them safe from all harm
and help them grow to become
loving disciples of Jesus in your sight.
Give them strength to always mature
into deeper faith in you,
and to keep alive joy in your creation.
Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

—by Father David R. Engbarth, St. Nicholas Church, Aurora, Illinois