How Saint Nicholas the Bishop (not the red suited intruder) can teach us all a lesson about gift giving.
Just before the Thanksgiving Holiday we brought out our Christmas Tree and decorations. It was a cozy day for us as we took our time hanging each ornament carefully, (the kids not so careful but excited more than anything). This was the first year for my son to participate in this tradition during the Thanksgiving Holiday. My daughter however is by now a pro. She was the most excited to get started. In fact she's the reason we brought out everything a few days earlier this year, because she had been eagerly begging us to bring our Christmas bins out of storage already. She's a persistent little princess. Once the tree was up, she was ready to teach her little brother a few things about hanging ornaments on a Christmas Tree. Not long after we were done we somehow started talking about Santa Claus. Until this Holiday season we hadn't talked too much about Santa Claus. This year so far has proven to be different however, and she's coming at us with requests to help her start making a wish list. This is something I was not prepared for. Here's a confession you may be surprised to hear.
I never imagined raising my kids to be believers in the Santa Claus that we know today. Call me what you will, but this blog is all about being honest, and to be honest, I think it's all a little silly. The stories that we see in children's books and movies about the magic, miracles, and fantasies that surround the image of the jolly ol' man in red are wonderful, but are a far stretch from the true origins of St. Nicholas. Please don't get me wrong, I love the idea of spreading the joyous spirit of giving, but I want my children to know where the story begins as well. The story of St. Nicholas, who according to one of many sources, was born hundreds of years ago in 280 A.D. in patara near Myra in modern day Turkey. He was not a man who flew above homes on a sleigh climbing down chimneys. He did however GIVE. He gave all that he could to help anyone in need including all good children, the poor and homeless. It is even believed that he gave away his entire wealth and inheritances and continued to give by helping the poor and sick.
That is the image I wish to instill on my children of this saintly figure we see so ridiculously commercialized. Someone who, rich or poor, gives from the heart first. Too often I hear kids say "I want that for Christmas!" only to repeat their wish for a different toy seconds later. The whole cycle of celebrating Christmas in fact begins for thousands of people literally during the Thanksgiving Holiday with the spirit of shopping. We all rush to the stores to get the best deals on the newest toys, electronics, etc. (guilty). What about the people who have nothing? Where's the mad rush to help them? It's a little harder to find people in "that" spirit for sure.
Having the spirit of giving is what matters the most and I feel that I have failed in teaching my daughter this. She is a wonderful little girl with a bigger heart than mine, but I feel that she also should learn and know HOW TO GIVE as well as receive. How can I teach my children to be thankful for what they have and generous to those who have less than we do? How can I teach them to believe in the spirit of St. Nicholas' good will toward others without killing the spirit of magic that comes with our modern day Santa Claus? That's my goal this Christmas season. For all of us to find the gift of giving just as rewarding as the gifts we receive under the Christmas Tree, and that St. Nicholas' spirit lives on through the gift of generosity.