Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas (of Myra)

Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, aka St. Nick, aka Santa Claus.

You can learn more about him at this website.

An excerpt:
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara.
At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of
Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian,
died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words
to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used
his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering.
He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra
while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the
land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and
his concern for sailors and ships.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6th, kept
alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and
Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes
for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a
steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds.
December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in
much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is
celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in
the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch
children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse,
hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple
gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.
Let your continual mercy, O Lord, kindle in your church the
never-failing gift of charity, that, following the example of
your servant Nicholas of Myra, we may have grace to deal in
generosity and love with children and with all who are poor and
distressed, and to uphold the cause of those who have no
helper; for the sake of him who gave his life for us, your Son
our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.  Amen.

Almighty God, who in your love gave to your servant Nicholas of
Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness on land and sea:
Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for
the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of
the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or
grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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