As the days continue to shrink the hustle and the bustle of pre-holiday preparations continues to build. And I find that despite my best efforts, my list of ideas to make and do is ever increasing, distracting me from truly waiting well for the Light that comes during the holidays. As the Christmas decorations seem to appear earlier each year all around me, and the gift lists continue to get longer, I feel the need to be very intentional through December in modeling reflection and compassion. There are plenty of ways to accomplish waiting well, but I find that with my wee boys it is often through sharing stories that we all slow down and focus on the generosity and abundance the season has to share.
One of our favorite stories that we retell over and over through the month of December is that of St. Nicholas. The telling of this story normally begins on the day of December sixth, when we celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas with a meal shared with friends and small sacks filled with wooden gifts, chocolate coins, oranges and gingerbread men.
It is after the meal that I take out small peg figures and tell the following legend about St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas was a priest in the city of Myra in Turkey. He cared deeply about the people of his town and was always looking for ways to care for them. He sold everything he had so he could help people who didn’t have what they needed. When he came across a child who was sad or hungry he would give them gingerbread and sometimes a small wooden toy. And sometimes, someone needed a friend to listen to them when they were sad and lonely, and St. Nicholas would stop whatever he was doing to help.
One day a man came to talk to Nicholas, he was very sad. He had three beautiful daughters who wanted to be married, but he didn’t have the money he needed for dowries. Without a dowry, they could not get married. St. Nicholas listened thoughtfully and encouraged his sad friend.
That night the young women washed out their stockings before bed and hung them in front of the fireplace to dry. They went to bed feeling sad, because like their father they knew that with no money they would not be able to marry. The next morning the sun shone through the window and they awoke early to begin their days work of baking bread and cleaning their home. As they reached for their stockings to get dressed, the each discovered a lump in their stocking. There were three sacks of gold coins; plenty of money for them to marry.
I have been deeply influenced when telling tales of the saints by Godly Play, which is a Montessori-inspired storytelling and work set-up used to help children find the religious language they need to express their spiritual life.
And so, in the way of Godly Play I often end the story with wonderings. I typically have four or five I have thought of in advance, but often we only get through one or two. The purpose of the wonderings is to help us enter deeper into the story and to allow them to explore connections between the story, emotions, other stories, and their own life. Sometimes we sit in silence with the wondering, and other times someone shares their thoughts. These aren’t questions that need to be answered, but simply pondering to invite us all to enter the story in new ways.
Here are some wonderings I might use with the story of St. Nicholas:
I wonder how the girls felt when they found the money.
I wonder how their father felt.
I wonder why St. Nicholas wanted to help others so much.
I wonder how St. Nicholas felt after he secretly gave the money.
I wonder if there is a way you like to help others.
I wonder what kinds of things we can do to be like Nicholas.
St. Nicholas Day is always an exciting night and a taste of Christmas in the midst of Advent. And, most importantly, it is a story to remind us to use what we have to help each other and those around us. Through our December days, stories of the generosity of St. Nicholas help to focus our holiday preparation and celebration. I hope his story can do the same for you and your family.
Emily Watkins lives with her husband and three wee boys. She loves celebrating the seasons and the church year. Emily’s days are filled with learning, playing, making and reading with her boys. She chronicles some of these activities and various adventures on her blog Watkins Every Flavor Beans.
Rhythm of the Home is an online magazine for families that focuses on creating with children, nature explorations, seasonal celebrations, conscious parenting, and mindfulness in all that we do.