Monday, December 5, 2011

St. Nicholas and Advent Rituals

It's late, though I'm by nature a night owl.  My children are nestled in their beds, snuggled down with their special friends and warm blankets.  We like to make the most of the few cold nights we get here in Houston by lighting some candles, donning our warm pajamas (that we grow out of too quickly for the amount of time we actually get to wear them), drinking or eating something warm for our tummies, and then burying ourselves in soft warm blankets following our bed time rhythms.

Tonight our story before bed was the story of St. Nicholas and his secret gift giving.  An added element for our ritual was setting shoes out (easy to do with laying out clothes for school in the morning) and making plans to do an unexpected kindness for someone else tomorrow.  Come the morrow, there will be a tiny chocolate St. Nick, a clementine, some whole walnuts with sparkly gold shells, and a small gift tucked inside each pair of shoes.  Around the shoes will be a light dusting of glittery magic dust.  Not much and nothing fancy but this festival day is a part of our family's advent rhythm and this year we're adding a potluck at our school to share the warmth of community.  I loved watching Evangeline, almost 4, really understand what's going on and after sharing our story together she enthusiastically encouraged everyone to get their shoes and then go to bed so St. Nicholas could come.  "Nicholas is coming!" she cried.  Tomorrow her face is going to be the real treat!  I love the wonder, the connection to a real person that lived so long ago giving of himself to care for others, the emphasis on giving to others and to giving to those in need, and developing the sense of expectant waiting that is advent.  Going through the day tomorrow we will all be aware of the history of St. Nicholas helping those in need and inspired by him seek ways to give warmth and hope to others in need this advent and seek to carry that spirit on throughout the year.

I wanted to share just a quick list of St. Nicholas resources if you'd like to try some this year or plan to incorporate them next advent season.  Keep in mind the date differs around the world though the most recognized St. Nicholas Feast Day is December 6th.  Some celebrate on the 19th, others on Christmas.

St. Nicholas Stories
St. Nicholas teaching story (From a Waldorf Kindergarten, I read and then retold an abridged version)
St Nicholas traditions from other families
St. Nicholas activities

St. Nicholas Day isn't the only advent ritual we observe, I'll be sharing more about those and about Waldorf festivals in general over the next few weeks.  What rituals and rhythms do you observe during advent?  What winter holidays are you preparing for and how will you celebrate them?


  1. We celebrate Christmas by being with family. Though we are Christian, we do not celebrate it as a religious holiday. It is a time to be with family and to give to others who are less fortunate. My daughter is only 21MO, but we have not and do not plan on telling her that their is a Santa (or Easter bunny, or tooth fairy for that matter). I feel that these characters often tend to teach greed. While our children are still so young we go to the angel tree and buy presents for one girl and one boy, we do not make much money being a military family but we want to give what we can. Once our children are older we plan on going to soup kitchens and doing other charity work, especially around holidays. I want to teach my children that they should always give back, and not just because they will get a toy out of it.
    They will still get presents on Christmas, but I feel as if one present that they really want and some stocking stuffers are enough (especially because they get presents from family too). I know my daughter already has SO many toys they won't all fit in her toy boxes! We will do an advent calender (we're supposed to be moving to Germany soon and hoping to get a really good one there!) because they are fun!

  2. We love advent calendars so much we have 2 this year! They are both very different though, I'll be blogging about them in a few days. I think advent calendars are a great way to make us be very aware of the passage of time and develop an awareness of waiting. We have found that doing the calendar makes us more intentional about giving to others, time doesn't seem to just get away from us as easily.

    Sounds like you have some wonderful traditions started and planned for your family. Developing your own rituals and cultivating their meaning adds such richness to our lives. I hope you enjoy this season and the many more to come for your family! ~Jessica