Certain days during Advent are “feastdays," helping to enrich your journey through the season. A feastday is simply a special day on which a particular event or person is remembered or celebrated.
December 6: St. Nicholas Day
December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas. Unlike the Santa Claus myth he inspired, St. Nicholas was a real person. He was the Bishop of Myra (a region in modern-day Turkey) during the fourth century. Though there are many legends about his life, St. Nicholas was best known for his generosity to the poor. His habit of giving to the needy, often anonymously, helped inspire our modern tradition of gift giving.
In the Netherlands, he is called Sanct Herr Nicholaas, or Sinterklaas, which eventually became our “Santa Claus.” His legacy lives on around the world, particularly in Europe, where he is properly remembered as a Christian saint rather than the “jolly old elf” depicted in American ads, movies, and kitsch.
Parents of young children often struggle with the “Santa Clause question”: Should we let our kids believe in Santa? This is a personal issue that each family must prayerfully decide for itself. But however you answer the question, consider telling your kids about St. Nicholas, the “real” Santa Claus. December 6 comes early during Advent and is a perfect day for talking about the life and Christlike example of this kind and generous man.
For more about St. Nicholas, check out the St. Nicholas Center.
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December 13: St. Lucy’s Day
December 13 marks the Feast of St. Lucy, a young Christian woman who lived in Sicily during the fourth century (around the time of St. Nicholas). In a time when many Christians were persecuted for their faith, Lucy, whose name means “light,” is said to have brought food to poor Christians hiding in the catacombs. To light her way while keeping her hands free to carry food, she fashioned a candle-lit wreath for her head.
Today, St. Lucy’s legend lives on, especially in Scandinavian countries. On December 13, the eldest daughter rises early to prepare a special breakfast, dons a white dress and red sash, puts a wreath of lighted candles on her head, and leads the other children in a procession to bring breakfast to the parents. Many churches and towns in Europe and the United States mark the occasion with a “Lucia procession,” where girls and boys in white robes carry candles, pass out treats, and sing Christmas carols.
Apart from Lutherans, most American Christians are probably unfamiliar with St. Lucy’s Day. But the stories about her life are worth telling. St. Lucy is remembered not only for her compassion for the poor, but also for her devotion to Christ: she died a martyr. Consider using December 13 to talk about the life and Christlike example of this fearless young woman who paid the ultimate price for her faith.
[Banner image: Celebration of St. Lucy's Day, image credit.]