Carol Myers has a labor of love. It’s the St. Nicholas Center, a website resource center honoring the saint celebrated today. She writes,
I first became interested in St. Nicholas when our children were small. I wanted them to understand that there was a person of faith behind Santa Claus—a real person who served God and gave gifts to help others. We hoped that understanding who Santa really was, Saint Nicholas, would help them connect faith and giving. And, just maybe, it would help avoid some seasonal greed.
Living in Holland, Michigan, we added Dutch touches to our St. Nicholas Day. On the evening of December 5th, our three children put their wooden shoes, filled with carrots, on the hearth. In the morning the boys would find two matchbox cars and a mesh bag of gold Dutch chocolate coins. Our daughter might find a piece of jewelry or special barrettes. Simple things, but they brightened an Advent day and gave an opportunity to talk about St. Nicholas.
That was just the beginning of what has become a site overflowing with lessons and possibilities for families today. Not only is her website full of free content, she also started a store to ship out real-world items, as well as created a traveling educational display about St. Nicholas. Her goal is to help families and churches celebrate the real-life saint from the fourth century, now known to many of us as Santa Claus and inextricably woven with this season. Carol writes,
As Bishop of Myra, Nicholas lived the qualities that caused his fame and popularity to spread throughout the Christian world. His vigorous actions on behalf of his people and in defense of the Christian faith reveal a man who lived his convictions. Nicholas was not timid—he did what was necessary and was not easily intimidated by others’ power and position. His concern for the welfare of his flock and his stand for orthodox belief earned him respect as a model for bishops and a defender of the faith.
It’s been a long journey from the Fourth Century Bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas, who showed his devotion to God in extraordinary kindness and generosity to those in need, to America’s jolly Santa Claus, whose largesse often supplies luxuries to the affluent. However, if you peel back the accretions, he is still Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, whose caring surprises continue to model true giving and faithfulness.
There is growing interest in reclaiming the original saint in the United States to help restore a spiritual dimension to this festive time. For indeed, St. Nicholas, lover of the poor and patron saint of children, is a model of how Christians are meant to live. A bishop, Nicholas put Jesus Christ at the center of his life, his ministry, his entire existence. Families, churches, and schools are embracing true St Nicholas traditions as one way to claim the true center of Christmas—the birth of Jesus. Such a focus helps restore balance to increasingly materialistic and stress-filled Advent and Christmas seasons.
If you have young children at home and you haven’t prepared a thing, fear not! Carol has a full page of coloring images for you. Pick your favorite, print it out and ask a child to color it for you to celebrate the saint. Offer some basic facts (St. Nicholas was a real bishop who lived 1600 years ago! We are celebrating him today!) and you’re good to go.
Or, if you have more time on your hands, fall down the beautiful internet rabbit hole of her Celebrate at Home link and see the many ways families celebrate St. Nicholas, both now and in the past.
What a gift to us all Carol has created with this site! We give thanks to God for her ministry. Celebrate St. Nicholas today – with her and with the company of saints around the world.
Do you celebrate St. Nicholas? How?