Last year, I felt that it was important for our family to be a little more authentic in how we celebrate the Christmas season. Because I feel that baby steps are important, we started with the Feast of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was a bishop in Turkey who was known for assisting the needy, sick and suffering people. There are several stories of St. Nicholas providing money and help to those in need and he became widely popular in Europe.
Several popular American Christmas traditions hold their root in European origin.
The beginnings of Christmas stockings came from one of the stories about St. Nicholas. As the story goes, he heard of 3 maidens whose father could not afford a dowry. In order to keep them from being sold into slavery, he threw money for their dowry into the window which landed in their stockings.
An orange (or an apple) is often thought to symbolize the gold that was thrown in the window and is traditionally thrown in first.
Chocolate coins are self-explanatory in the story of St. Nicholas as summarized above. I did find these awesome St. Nicholas Coin printables last year that you can put on the coins before adding them to the stockings.
Shaped like a bishops staff, candy canes are a symbol of a bishop as a shepherd who cares for his flock.
Gift Giving Under Cover of Darkness
St. Nicholas did his gift giving secretly, under cover of darkness. As the bible says, do not let your right hand know what your left is doing. (Matthew 6:3).
We have taken these to heart and decided to change our old traditions. Instead of our stockings being an addition to an already overloaded Christmas morning, we have decided to put them out the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas. In the morning, the stockings are filled with all the above items plus a few. As with any family tradition, we have tweaked it to fit our family. Since the stockings I purchased pre-kiddos are HUGE, it takes a LOT to fill them. We include: the first oranges of the season AND an apple, chocolate coins, a candy cane, gingerbread men (an old Polish St. Nicholas tradition), the annual ornament (I buy my kids an ornament each year) as well as one small toy and a religious item for their church busy bag.
Do you celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas?
Jen can be found writing at Happy Little Homemaker.