Today is December 6th and it happens to be one of my favorite days of the year. It is the Feast of St. Nicholas, a man whom I’ve enjoyed a tremendous relationship with over the years. St Nicholas was born in Turkey and at a very early age his parents both passed away, leaving his Uncle, also named Nicholas, to raise him. Uncle Nicholas was a Bishop and raised young Nicholas to be a religious man teaching him first to be a reader in church and then ordaining him as a priest. From there many legends have grown over the years about his generosity and the miracles he performed during his life. Like many stories from ancient times I suspect you can take most of them with a grain of salt. There’s likely a bit of truth in them but certainly the legend of St. Nicholas has been built from many generations of storytellers each adding their own twist. Regardless of that I find it very cool that thousands of year’s later people of many faiths, and many countries, remember in some way an old, grey-haired, Saint who by all accounts was a kind soul who encouraged others to be givers. Can you imagine what it’s like to have the whole world anticipate your arrival and actually leave things out to make you comfortable when you show up?
Today, across Europe, children awoke to shoes filled with presents and treats, gifts from St. Nicholas himself on his feast day. Good children received fruit, candies or a present while bad children received coal. The coal an indication that you better shape up in the few days left until Christmas! While St Nicholas Day hasn’t become as big a deal here in the states, many homes now have Advent Calendars to count the days until St Nicholas arrives with a bit of chocolate or treat behind each day’s door. And on Christmas Eve there will be cookies and milk, and a carrot for the reindeer, on many tables around the world, a welcome to the Man we await with anticipation. That, I think, is what the best part of Christmas is. The anticipation. And I think it’s the greatest gift St Nicholas gives us.
Think about it. How many presents do you remember of the dozens or hundreds you’ve received in your life? Sure, you might remember the big ones, or the very special ones, but most of the things you unwrapped on Christmas morning were nice to receive but didn’t leave a permanent mark on your memory. It’s the anticipation that makes Christmas special, awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, and anticipating the birth of the one who came before him. We decorate trees, hang stockings with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there and in the darkest days of the year turn on multi-color lights, candles and wrap ourselves up in a joy we don’t feel the rest of the year.
In the interest of full disclosure, I not only believe in Santa Claus, I believe I am Santa Claus. There. I said it out loud for everyone to hear. For 20 years now I have collected Santa’s and this time of year they fill every corner of the house. I have a beautiful Santa suit that Diane had made for me years ago and I even took the name Nicholas as my confirmation name. I love St. Nicholas and have never stopped believing in him. See, I think you do him a great disservice if you only think of him as the guy who brings presents. St. Nicholas brings anticipation and the hope that things can be merry and bright. St. Nicholas brings the belief that each one of us is special and deserving. St. Nicholas brings the comfort that for one day of the year being a kid is ok, no matter how old a kid you are! See, I don’t want to be another star athlete, or famous politician, or even a reality show host. I’d prefer to be the guy that makes your heart flutter a little when you see him for the first time each year. So, from me to you, Happy St. Nicholas Day and don’t be afraid to tell everyone you believe in Santa Claus, and have fun anticipating his arrival!!