The feast of St. Nicholas is one of the many Liturgical Year celebrations that was warmly enhanced by our time in Germany. While we homeschool our children now, we were blessed to have them attend a lovely school in Berlin for three years, where we all experienced a great variety of cultures. But of course, more than anything, we experienced the marvelous culture and customs of Germany. And so, come the morning of December 6th, all the school children would be eager to look outside the classrooms to see if St. Nikolaus and his helper, Knecht Rupprecht, had made a visit.
In most places in Germany, it was the custom to change into slippers–literally house-shoes (hausschuhe)–upon entering a building. Simple wool felt slippers were often made available for visitors in homes, but in the schools, all the children would have their own warm, cozy slippers waiting for them. The image below looks just like the kind of slippers my daughter wore in school in Berlin. Because of the habit of slipper wearing, the habit of lining up outdoor shoes was already ingrained, and therefore they were easily filled outside the classroom. We also celebrated at home, but it was very exciting for the children to share this feast day with their classmates.
One of the other habits we acquired in Germany was our love of Lindt chocolate, and Lindt just happens to make the neatest old-world looking chocolate Santa figures. The outfit is very much an old world style, and not unlike what a bishop might have worn in ages past, and the tinfoil on the top of the head is easily adjusted to resemble a miter. The Santa usually has a simple ribbon belt, which makes for easy holding of a candy cane (which of course doubles as a crosier). Of course in the wee small hours, my candy canes were nowhere to be found, and I totally forgot about the tinfoil miter, but you get the idea. Next year, if I am more organized, I would love to try this bending of the candy canes to make them really look like crosiers. Who knew?
The Lindt Santas are super pricey online, but I can usually find them in several of our local grocery stores for much less–I just have to remember to buy them in advance next year. Two of our shoes missed out this year. I also try to include the bag of gold coins, whenever I can find them, as well as a small ornament, if possible. (As an aside, a friend commented on how nice this image was, how tidy–all I can say is camera angles are everything, and low lighting is always flattering. I will post some very real pictures soon enough, and then all assumptions of housekeeping as a gift of mine will dissipate!). This year I was also super excited to be able to include some of the saints’ virtue cards, from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist–one virtue/Saint per shoe. You can just barely see them peaking out from behind the Santas in the picture below. It took some prayerful discernment to chose a virtue for each of the family members to work on, but I think it added meaningfully to what could become just a secular “sugar holiday” and kept it in the spirit of growing in our faith, and in our imitation of the Saints.
Our standard practice on feast days is to share our stories, thoughts, and knowledge of the saint of the day at the dinner table, and we also try to read stories or watch movies or brief stories on the life of the saint of the day. We love the CCC version of the life of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas’ life is so amazing–he is credited with so many miracles during his earthly life, to say nothing of his work from Heaven. We addressed the “Santa question” right from the earliest years by telling our kids that Santa Claus IS St. Nicholas, and sharing his amazing life story with them. I remember one time when my oldest son (now 15) was about four years old, another young child came up to him with rather strong assurance and said, “you know, there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.” My son looked momentarily confused, and then he kind of screwed up his little face and said, “oh yes there is–he was a bishop from the 4th century in Asia Minor.” I kid you not. Our Saints beat your super heroes any day! 🙂
I hope you all had a blessed feast of St. Nicholas.
I am a homeschooling mom of six kids, married to a patient, supportive, and crazy smart husband, whom I met on the internet in the days of screaming modems. Raised on the east coast, I am happily raising my family in the midwest. I love to collect and share traditions, recipes, prayers, crafts, and activities for living out the Catholic Faith in my home and family.