This Sunday, December 6, is the feast day of St. Nicholas, whom we now associate with Christmas. He was a 4th century bishop in Myra, in what is now Turkey. Known for his generosity and consideration of people in terrible circumstances, he is the patron saint of a long list of groups, including barrel makers, prisoners, children, brides, fishermen, pawn brokers and travellers.
Legends of his good deeds seem endless, and each of them seemed to add another group to the list of those who then claimed him as their saint. He provided bread for some hungry souls, and bakers were included. He is reported to have appeared to sailors, to guide them on storm-tossed seas, so then sailors joined in. And so on…
In many parts of the world, on Dec. 5, the eve of his feast day, children put their shoes just outside the front doors of their houses, and it is said that St. Nicholas comes during the night and fills the shoes with gifts such as sweets, chocolate coins, nuts and fruits to be enjoyed the next day. The Santa Claus that we have come to know developed out of the tradition of St. Nicholas, and our custom of hanging our stockings by the chimney with care on Christmas Eve may well be in homage to the shoes left by the door outside, both with great expectation of a kind visitor. And over time the notion of a caring, generous saint easily found a place in our celebration of the birth of the Saviour in Bethlehem, come to set his people free.
Grace and peace to you,
Revs. Bob and Helen Smith
A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, December 5, 2020, edition of Tidbits.