Feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6th…
Saint Nicholas has been for hundreds of years a popular saint in the East and in the West, greatly famed as a worker of miracles. There are many charming legends concerning him.
One tells of an occasion in heaven when all the saints came together to talk and to drink a little wine. Saint Basil filled the golden cups from the golden jug, and everyone was deep in conversation when it was noticed that Saint Nicholas was nodding. One of the blessed nudged him until he awoke, and asked why he was slumbering in such good company.
“Well, you see,” he told them, “the enemy has raised a fearful storm in the Aegean. My body was dozing perhaps, but my spirit was bringing the ships safe to shore.”
Saint Nicholas is the saint of mariners and also of bankers, pawnbrokers, scholars, and thieves! But he is especially the saint of children, and is known among them in various countries as Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Pelznickel.
There have even been invented servants to accompany him and to deal with the children who have been bad.
Saint Nicholas is considered too kind to give scoldings and punishments, so, in Austria Krampus, in Germany Knecht Rupprecht, and in Holland, Black Peter goes along with him, armed with a stout switch, while Saint Nicholas himself simply gives and gives.
Another very old legend tells us of the saint’s kindness to the three daughters of a poor nobleman. They were about to be sold into slavery, because they had no dowry, when Saint Nicholas stole to their home and on three nights in succession dropped a bag of gold down the chimney. This is said to explain why three balls are the pawnbrokers’ sign and why the saint drops gifts for children down the chimney.
Devotion to Saint Nicholas began in Asia Minor, where he was a bishop, and it was brought to Russia by an emperor who was witness to some of his miraculous works. It spread through Lapland and into Scandinavia, to other European countries, and finally to America.
Up to that time Saint Nicholas had been pictured as a lean and ascetic bishop. In America, he became fat and jolly, and his miter was turned into a winter cap, his vestments into a snow suit. But he has kept his reindeer from Lapland, his propensity for chimneys acquired in Asia Minor, and the generosity of his heart.
A French legend tells that long ago Our Lady gave Lorraine to Saint Nicholas as a reward for his kindness to the world. He is still the special patron of that province and on his eve children hang up their stocking, saying:
Saint Nicolas, mon bon patron Envoyez-moi quelqu’ chose de bon.
In Holland Saint Nicholas puts in an appearance on the eve of his feast. As the children sing, the door flies open and on the floor drop candies and nuts–right on a white sheet that has been spread out just in case.
And after he has gone, there is hot punch and chocolate and boiled chestnuts served with butter and sugar. And in the morning, children find in the shoes they have set before the fire toys and many other good things–candy hearts and spice cakes, “letterbankets,” which were candies or cakes in the form of the child’s initials, ginger cakes or “taai-taai” in patterns of birds and fish and the form of the saint himself. He also brings a hard cooky, called “Speculaus.”
1/2 cup butter 2-1/2 cups cake flour 1 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 egg 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 lemon rind, grated 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream the butter and sugar, add the egg, and continue beating. Add the grated lemon rind and the flour sifted with the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Let the dough rest overnight in a cool place. Roll out as thinly as possible– about the thickness of the back of a knife blade. Cut into desired shape and bake at 350 degrees F. for fifteen to twenty minutes.
In Switzerland Saint Nicholas parades the streets, his arms full of red apples, cookies, and prunes for the children who crowd to him. In Austria and Germany he throws gilded nuts in at the door while Rupprecht and Krampus, the spoilsports, throw in a few birch twigs.
In Poland if there is a red sunset on Saint Nicholas’ Day, it is because the angels are busily baking the Saint’s Honey Cakes.
Ciastka Miodowe (Honey Cakes)
1/2 cup honey 1 teaspoon soda 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1 egg 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 2 egg yolks 1/4 teaspoon cloves 4 cups flour 1/4 teaspoon ginger
Warm the honey slightly and combine with the sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Sift the flour with the soda and spices and stir into the honey batter thoroughly. Let the dough rest overnight. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness; cut out with a cooky cutter. Brush with the slightly beaten white of an egg, press half a blanched almond into each cooky and bake at 375 degrees F. for about fifteen minutes.
Below is two renditions of the St. Nicholas song courtesy of the St. Nicholas Center. I always liked the tune of Jolly Old St. Nicholas but the words are silly. So here is a chance to sing it with some good words!
Saint Nicholas Song
Song tells the story of Saint Nicholas
Thankful Bishop Nicholas,
friendly good and wise,
when he could he helped the poor,
always by surprise.
Rich folk came to Nicholas,
Bringing wealth to share,
so it could be sent to those living in despair.
Three maidens husbands could not find,
their father was so poor;
No dowry was available, to tempt a suitor’s lore.
Word came to youthful Nicholas,
who acted in good taste,
In darkness threw three bags of gold,
retreating in great haste.
Zealous Bishop Nicholas,
born in Pa-tar-a,
Was the Bishop of My-ra
in times of great trial.
Who suffered prison for his faith,
Through torture still held firm,
Released by Constantine the Great,
to My-ra he returned.
Holy Bishop Nicholas,
The sailors patron saint,
saved the storm-tossed mariners
from a salty fate.
Who at Nicea formed the creed—
but jail became his fate,
He punched a pastor in the jaw,
so heated the debate.
Patron Saint of children,
Saint Nicholas did become,
giving gifts at Christmas time,
a special act of love.
His style was different from his peers,
as they would often see,
“Give to the truley needy ones
Gentle Bishop Nicholas,
friendly good and wise,
When he could he helped the poor,
always by surprise.
We too must always seek to share,
our means with those in need,
God help us imitate this saint,
on Advent winter eves.
The Song of St. Nicholas
To the tune of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”
Once upon a long ago
Very far away,
In the town of Bethlehem
Lying in some hay,
Jesus came for you and me
Bringing heaven’s love
As a gift for us to have
From the Lord above.
In the town of Myra once
Also long ago,
Lived good Bishop Nicholas
Hair as white as snow.
Nicholas loved Jesus who
Loved and helped us all.
“I will do the same,” said he
“Helping great and small.”
Thankful Bishop Nicholas
Friendly, good and wise;
When he could, helped the poor
Always by surprise.
Rich men came to Nicholas
Bringing wealth to share
So it could be sent to those
Living in despair.
We should be like Nicholas
Thankful, good and kind,
Loving those who need our help
All the ones we find.
Jesus and Saint Nicholas
Taught us how to give:
Share but never seek rewards,
That is how to live!
A Puppet Show!
When my older children were young we had a lot of fun putting on a puppet show for the Feast of St. Nicholas. This was the day we gave our children stockings. We set them out on the evening of the 5th after the children were in bed. St. Nicholas Day was greeted with yelps of joy when they saw their goodies in the stockings. It was the one day they were allowed to munch throughout their lessons!
Mary Reed Newland’s book gives instructions on making simple sock puppets for both St. Nicholas and Black Pete.
The following is her suggestion for a play. We used hers and added to it our own touches.
One year we did it all in poem form and another year the puppet, St. Nicholas, threw the stockings out to each child, surprising one of them with a stocking full of straw! It was my brother (he was older) and he got a big kick out of it, but it made the other kid’s eyes open wide in shocked bewilderment! They were all relieved when they found out it was a joke and the recipient received his stocking after all.
This kind of thing will certainly make the Feast Days come alive for the children!
The following is by Mary Reed Newland The Year & Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season
Everyone assembles after dinner on December 5, the vigil of the feast, and the puppet show begins.
First, St. Nicholas appears, bowing with dignity and murmuring, “Thank you, thank you,” to the shouts and clapping.
He has a Dutch accent (just for merriment), and if your accent isn’t all it might be, frequent interpolations of “Ja, ja” convince all present that it is superb.
“Good evening, little children,” he says. “I am St. Nicholas. Ja – a real saint I am, in Heaven now, and my feast is celebrated tomorrow. You are going to celebrate my feast? Ja? Good!
“I am not, you know, the reason for Christmas. Although I am sometimes called Santa Claus, I am not the reason for Christmas. Oh, no. Baby Jesus is the reason for Christmas. It is His birthday, Christmas, the day His Father in Heaven gave Him to all of us.
“I am waiting in Heaven, now, like you on earth, for His birthday on Christmas Day. And do you want to know something? That is why I gave gifts to little children when I was on earth! Because I was so grateful to God the Father for giving Jesus to me.
That is why we give each other presents on Christmas Day, because we are full of joy and gladness that Jesus came down to be one of us and to die to pay for our sins.
“Now, here is something you may do for my feast, and it pleases me very much. You hang your stockings tonight, and if you are very good children, you will get cookies in them!
But if you are bad…. Ahhh, if you are bad, you will get – not cookies – but straw!
Black Peter will put straw in your stockings.”
Up pops Black Peter, giggling and snickering and wagging his hands at the audience, which promptly rolls on the floor and shrieks.
The bishop is grave. “Peter! Peter! Behave yourself, or I will have to use a switch on you! Peter, you are going to put straw in some stockings? Jah?”
Peter looks coy, cocks his head, and makes odd noises that say neither aye nor nay.
“Ah, he will not tell. Peter, be fair now. No straw for the good children, you know. But be honest as well – straw for the naughty ones!”
Peter snickers again, wags at the children, then turns and throws himself on the bishop, arms around his neck, mewing noisily.
As the bishop nods his head paternally, Peter slyly turns to the children, waves a free arm and giggles.
Then he quickly buries his head in the bishop’s shoulder again.
After this you can have Peter sing a song or two, and the bishop can end the play with a hymn and lead the children in a little prayer or two, asking for the grace to be good and to love little Jesus with all their hearts. Then it is all over.
All go rushing about looking for stockings, full of high hopes for cookies – which, of course, they have spent the afternoon helping to make (or seen Mother buy).
The following morning tells the tale, and it is sometimes a mixture of fun and bittersweet. We have a little friend named Teddy who was unable to bear the suspense; so he bade his sister look in his stocking for him.
When she reported, “Cookies!” he was so amazed (what with the weight of his past sins pressing so hard upon him) that he gasped, “Are you sure?”
Another Puppet Show Idea with Audio…
This is a link for the audio to the Puppet Show below.
Below is the script for the Play.
St. Nicholas Puppet Show
3 sisters: Anastasia
St. Nicholas (appears in front of backdrop of village): Hello, girls and boys. Hello, my friends. How are you? Do you know who I am? Yes, that’s right. I am St. Nicholas, and sometimes people call me Santa Claus. I am the patron saint of children, because I love every one of you. I like to give gifts to the good children, too. I want to tell you a story of something that happened a long time ago when I lived in Myra where I was the bishop. Once I was walking down the street in a very poor part of the town. I heard singing coming from one of the huts. I went closer to hear better, and this is what I saw through the window.
(Curtain rises to show interior of peasant hut. Papa is in one corner, with his back to audience, and his head in his hands. Sometimes he takes a drink from a bottle. Matchmaker is in another corner, watching the 3 girls)
Anastasia, Cecilia, and Agnes (singing and dancing a little): Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch.
Anastasia: Oh, Matchmaker, have you spoken to the miller about his son, Basil? He is sooooo handsome.
Cecilia: Handsome? Goodness, Anastasia, the miller’s son always has a bit of white flour on the tip of his nose!
Matchmaker: A little flour improves the complexion, I always say. I will speak to the miller as soon as your father tells me how much dowry he can provide.
Agnes: Matchmaker, have I told you yet how much I like the butcher’s son, John?
Anastasia: Only about a thousand times!
Cecilia: But, Agnes, don’t you notice that the butcher’s son always smells like sausages?
Matchmaker: And it’s a very good smell. I will speak to the butcher as soon as your father tells me how much dowry he can give you.
Anastasia: And, what about you, Cecilia? Which young man do you have your eye upon?
Matchmaker: Simon, the blacksmith, is looking for a wife.
Cecilia: Oh, no. His hands are always black.
Anastasia: Then he won’t mind eating your cooking when the meat gets charred.
Cecilia: You are the one who chars the meat, dear Anastasia, whenever we get the chance to have some.
Agnes: We are much to poor to eat meat, so why argue about it? Matchmaker, what other men are available?
Matchmaker: Well, there is Matthew the sign painter.
Cecilia: Why, he is almost blind.
Anastasia: A perfect match: with your plain looks and his poor eyesight, you’ll surely be happy.
Cecilia: My plain looks! Why, you–
Agnes: Who else do you have, Matchmaker?
Matchmaker: Well, I could speak to Jude, the horse trader.
Cecilia: What? He is so old and deaf!
Matchmaker: He’s only 62, or is it 72?
Anastasia: A proper, mature bridegroom! And, just think, since he is deaf, he won’t be able to hear your bad singing!
Cecilia: No, no, no. None of them. I will whisper the name of the one I want to marry in your year, Matchmaker. (She whispers)
Matchmaker: Oh, what are you thinking? His father is the richest man in the city. How much of a dowry is your papa going to give you?
Papa: (groans) Nothing! I have no dowry at all to give them. And I can’t give you any money, either, Matchmaker. I have lost my job, and I spent my last shilling on this bottle of wine.
Agnes: (In great consternation) No money! No dowry!
Anastasia: What will we do?
Cecilia: How will we live?
Matchmaker: How will they find husbands?
Papa: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Slave Trader: (enters) Excuse me, good sir, but I heard a rumor that you are in trouble. You have no money. You can’t buy food, or pay your rent. You can’t get husbands for your daughters. But this is your lucky day. I can help you.
Anastasia: Oh, yes, please help us.
Agnes: We want to get married.
Slave Trader: (Laughs evilly) Ha, ha, ha. You girls won’t have to worry about getting a husband. You won’t need a dowry.
Matchmaker: What do you mean, you slimy snake?
Slave Trader: Me, a slimy snake? Why, I only want to help this unfortunate downtrodden man!
Papa: How can you help me?
Slave Trader: Send the dear girls away and I will tell you.
Papa: Go out, all of you.
Girls: Yes, Papa.
Slave Trader: You must go too, my darling Matchmaker.
Matchmaker: (To Papa) Watch out. He is up to no good!
Slave Trader: Oh, how you insult me. I have a very good plan to assist this poor miserable fellow.
Matchmaker: Hmmph. Your plan may be good for you, but not for him.
Slave Trader: Arrivaderci. Bye-bye. Out you go.
(Girls and Matchmaker exit.)
Slave Trader: Now, my friend. I know how you can get a lot of money, and very easily. You won’t have to lift a finger and all your troubles will be gone.
Papa: (eagerly) What is it? Tell me.
Slave Trader: I will buy your daughters.
Papa: Buy them!
Slave Trader: They are nice, strong young girls. I will pay one thousand shillings.
Papa: No! No! No!
Slave Trader: You don’t understand, my friend. I mean, one thousand shillings, each.
Papa: But, you will make them slaves!
Slave Trader: Yes, but you will have plenty of money.
Papa: But, they will be miserable.
Slave Trader: Yes, but they will be glad to help their poor papa.
Papa: One thousand shillings each!
Slave Trader: Yes. Do we have a deal? Make up your mind quickly.
Slave Trader: Act now. You won’t get this chance again.
Slave Trader: Here is a bonus: you won’t have to spend a cent on feeding or clothing them after they are gone.
Papa: Let me think about it. Come back tomorrow.
Slave Trader: (On his way out) Don’t forget, this offer is only good for a limited time.
Papa: (Pushing Slave Trader) Get out of here.
Slave Trader: It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Papa: (Gives him a shove) GET OUT!
(Slave Trader exits. Door slams. Papa paces back and forth. )
Papa: Oh, what should I do?
( Curtain closes. Scene changes to village street.)
St. Nicholas: Well, this was a terrible situation for those poor girls. Their papa had almost made up his mind to sell them for slaves. What could I do to help them? I remembered that I had some money saved up. I had thought about taking a trip to visit some holy places, but that money I saved for the trip was needed desperately right now. So that night, I quietly came back, with 3 small sacks of gold. I climbed up on the roof of that little hut. Yes, even at my age with my white beard, I managed to get up there. I silently dropped those sacks of gold down into the chimney. Now, watch what happened the next morning.
(St. Nicholas exits. Scene changes to inside of hut. Papa enters and paces back and forth, groaning)
Papa: Oh, morning is here and I still don’t know what to do. That wicked slave trader will be here soon to buy the girls. I must sell them. I can’t afford to keep them and feed them.
Girls: (enter happily, humming “Matchmaker”)
Anastasia: Good morning, dear Papa.
Agnes: Did you sleep well, Papa?
Cecilia: What did that man want yesterday? He said he would help you get rich. If you get rich, you can give all 3 of us dowries.
Papa: Never mind what he said. It’s cold. Make a fire. Use up the last of our sticks of wood. Hurry up. Get busy.
(3 Girls go to fireplace)
Anastasia: What is this in the fireplace?
Agnes: It looks like 3 bags.
Anastasia: What is in them?
Cecilia: Let me see. (She takes the bags and looks in them)
Agnes: Maybe the 3 bags are 3 gifts for the 3 of us girls.
Cecilia: Look! They are full of coins.
Anastasia: Where did they come from?
Cecilia: Maybe someone dropped them down the chimney.
Agnes: There is enough money here for us to have dowries.
Papa: What is this? Money?
Cecilia: Look, Papa! 3 bags of coins, one for each of us. We can get married now.
Papa: Is it a miracle?
Slave Trader: (enters) Good morning, my friends. You all look very cheerful today. You must have made up your mind to accept my generous offer.
Papa: You are wrong. We don’t need your dirty money, Slave Trader.
Slave Trader: But–
Papa: Heaven has helped us, and answered my daughters’ prayers.
Slave Trader: But–
Papa: Get out of my house.
Slave Trader: But–
Papa: And never come back! (He shoves Slave Trader out)
Matchmaker: (enters) I just saw that slimy snake, the Slave Trader running out your door. He looked very upset. What happened to him?
Papa: (chuckles) He missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Matchmaker: I am very glad to hear it.
Papa: And now, Matchmaker, you shall make some matches for my girls. Find them the very best men you can. Girls, show the matchmaker what you found in the fireplace this morning.
Cecilia: Look, we have dowries.
Matchmaker: 3 Bags of money! Praise be to God.
Papa: Let us all kneel down and thank the good God for his mercy to a poor sinner and his family.
(Curtain closes. Scene changes to street scene again)
St. Nicholas (enters): And so the 3 girls all got married, and were very happy. Papa was happy, too, and so was the Matchmaker, and so was I. Did you know that one of the best ways to find joy, is to give gifts to others? I hope that if you ever have the chance to be generous and to give a gift to someone who needs it, you will remember this story and how happy it makes everyone when you give a good gift. God bless you.
[Now how many of you are good children? I will give all of the good children a little coin to help you remember this story. But, if you have been naughty, I will give you a lump of coal. ] (Puppeteers come out for applause and to give out candy coins)
“Cultivate kindness of heart; think well of your fellow-men; look with charity upon the shortcomings in their lives; do a good turn for them, as opportunity offers; and, finally, don’t forget the kind word at the right time. How much such a word of kindness, encouragement, of appreciation means to others sometimes, and how little it costs us to give it!” -J.R. MIller
A great Christmas gift idea… The Catholic Boy’s and Girl’s Traditional 30-Day Journals! Let’s keep our youth engaged in the Faith! Let’s teach them how to be organized, how to prioritize, how to keep on top of, first, the Spiritual things in their lives, and then the other daily duties that God requires of them… Available here.
Drawn from Archbishop Sheen’s bestselling books, these 28 reflections will lead you day by day through the Advent season. Eloquent quotes are paired with beautiful Scriptures on the themes of the season―patience, waiting, gift, hope, humility, joy―and more. Spend a few quiet moments of each day with one of the 20th century’s greatest preachers, preparing your heart to receive the Savior of the world.
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We have come to love the great of saint Nicolaus over the years thanks to this blog! Thank you very much!