Edward Hays, writing in A Pilgrim’s Almanac, said:
It is fitting that the feast of St. Nicholas comes at the beginning of Advent and the beginning of the shopper’s season. As the patron saint of shoppers he proclaims, “Keep it simple!” Keep it simple enough to fit in a shoe or a stocking.
One gift that could fit in a shoe, or in a stocking hanging on the fireplace, is a note that speaks of one of our most precious gifts, the gift of time. Such a St. Nicholas note might read: “The gift I give to you is half an hour of quality conversation each night right after the dishes are done.” Or, “The gift I give to you is one Saturday a month to be with you and do whatever you want to do.” We can appreciate the value of such a gift if we keep in mind that according to a recent survey, the average married couple in America has only 30 minutes a week of communication outside of exchanges that take place at the dinner table, and between parent and child is only 14 minutes. As you can see, the possibilities are almost unlimited for these St. Nicholas shoe gifts.
Come, St. Nicholas, patron of shoppers and gift-seekers, and make Christmas this year fun, creative and love-filled.
St. Nicholas, whose feast we celebrate today, while still in his youth was very generous with the fortune he had inherited from his wealthy parents. For this reason we honor him as an intercessor in all our material and financial needs. Born in Italy around the year 270, Nicholas was the bishop of Myra in Lycia (now part of Turkey). Nicholas died in the middle of the fourth century and, particularly since the tenth century, has been honored by the whole Church. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus. His feastday and gift-giving traditions in some countries are celebrated on December 6.
This is a great example of Christian celebrations that are based on a tradition of giving and of generosity. In our world today the advertising at Christmas time can lead to a focus way too much on receiving. This year, remember the example of the real Saint Nick upon whom that jolly old elf is based but whose image is warped and distorted by Madison Avenue. Focus on the giving, and not just the giving of things. Give a little of the most precious commodity any of us own to your loved ones: time.
[Admin – I admit that I’d never heard of the tradition of shoe notes or gifts to celebrate his feast day until recently. To see great examples of the tradition in action, visit GardenMama, Everyday Beauty, or The German Foodie.]