St. Nicholas lived only about 300 years after Christ’s resurrection, but he is still remembered the world over by people of many nations for his good deeds and kindness to others. As Orthodox Christian parents, it is important that we help our children to learn about this wonderful saint who not only was a blessing during his earthly life, but who continues to intercede in behalf of those who need God’s intervention in their lives. St. Nicholas is commemorated on December 6 (new calendar), right in the midst of the American “Christmas Season.” It is especially important for us as American Orthodox parents to help our children learn about the true Saint Nicholas, in a time when the American culture is promoting consumerism/greed and pairing that with Santa Claus.
A good place for us to start is by teaching our children about St. Nicholas’ life. We can begin by reading about it at http://www.roca.org/OA/5/5m.htm and/or http://orthodoxwiki.org/Nicholas_of_Myra. We can listen to a podcast about the difference between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus, (the podcast also includes stories from St. Nicholas’ life as well as ideas for celebrating St. Nicholas Day), from the perspective of an 8 year old at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/closetohome/the_real_st_nick.
A series of icons featuring St. Nicholas can be found at http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/us-icon-series/. Print a double set of the pictures, to make a memory game for the family to play with. Or, print a single set and challenge your family to order them on a timeline. This will require some research, as the icons represent events over a period of around 1600 years!
There are so many cultural traditions that include St. Nicholas! Visit http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/around-the-world/ to learn about some of them, and maybe try a few together as a family! One Orthodox mom writes about her family’s traditions at http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2012/11/30/st-nicholas-day-traditions-2/.
There are several ways to interact with St. Nicholas, as a family. Sing together about St. Nicholas by learning/singing http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/o-who-loves-nicholas/! Pray, and ask him for help with the prayer at http://www.sprint.net.au/~corners/Dec95/StNicholas.htm.
Then, purpose to act as he did. As a family, brainstorm together ideas of how to be extensions of St. Nicholas to the needy around you. Who needs help? What can you do to help them? How can you do it that they will not know who did it?
These are just a few ideas to help us think about St. Nicholas. For more ideas, check out http://www.pinterest.com/aodce/st-nicholas-day/. Regardless of which one(s) we use, let us purpose together to do something to help our children learn more about the life of Saint Nicholas, and to become a bit more like him during this nativity season.
Through the prayers of our Holy Father Nicholas, Oh Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us, and save us.