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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Celebrating The Feast of Saint Nicholas

St. Nicholas secretly bringing gifts
Some years ago I read about Mike Sherer, a Lutheran minister, who with his wife Kathe, a registered nurse, decided to celebrate Christmas without Santa Claus when their first child was three years old. They had come to see Santa as little more than a prop for the great North American Christmas Marketing Machine, and so decided to focus instead on his venerable ancestor, the real life Saint Nicholas.

This third century bishop of Myra, who lived on the southern coast of what is now Turkey, is legendary for his generosity in helping the poor and needy in his parish, according to stories about him passed down through the generations. He was especially well known as an advocate and protector of children, and as someone who preferred doing his good deeds in secret so as to avoid notice.

Because this real saint seemed to be a good alternative to the jolly old elf of recent invention, the Sherers began celebrating the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, which is on December 6 (today), as an early part of their family’s Advent, and each year designated 5% of their December income to give anonymous help to a needy individual or family in their community, in the spirit of the good bishop of Myra.

They did put up a tree, but covered the floor around it with good books about Christmas instead of the many other gifts for themselves that used to accumulate there. The books they then put away each year with the tree decorations, to give them a rest and to make them “new” each Advent.

The Sherers reported that their giving up a fake Santa for a real saint who  embodies the true spirit of Christmas was a richly satisfying change, one they recommend to everyone.
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