what we did for advent - part 3

Hey! I'm only a month behind with holidays. Today, we're celebrating Epiphany (January 6) and a belated Twelfth Night. I'm trying to catch up, but all this partying is rough on an old girl!

This has been a fun season. We got to try out lots of new things, and learned a ton. But I am very ready to pack it up, clean it out, scrub it down, and then put on a pot of beans to simmer while I hunker down with a good book.

This is part 3 in a series on what we did for Advent. (Part 1 and Part 2) One more post after this oughta cover it, and then maybe I'll tell you (briefly) how we celebrated the Twelve Days of Christmas. But now, without further ado:

St Nicholas' Day

One of the things that came up in our pre-Advent readings involved other holidays that happen during this time: St. Nicholas' Day, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, The Feast of the Holy Name, etc. Trying to do all that stuff, seemed like too much, so we decided to to something for St. Nicholas' Day (December 6).

The actual St. Nicholas was a 4th-century Greek Bishop of Myra (Demre, part of modern-day Turkey) in Lycia. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of "Saint Nikolaos". You can read more about St. Nicholas, here.

In some places in Europe, St. Nick comes on the eve of December 6, so that's when they do stockings (or shoes, or presents at the foot of the bed, or whathaveyou.) We talked about doing our stockings on December 6, but I got too sad at the thought of not doing stockings Christmas morning, one of my favorite traditions. So we decided to keep the American Santa Claus, and celebrate St. Nicholas in other ways.

We decided that, in keeping with our goal to lessen the consumerism of the season, we'd honor Nicholas' generosity by setting aside money to give away, focusing on today's "orphans and widows" as recipients. We gave anonymously, without tax receipts, and tried to make these donations both generous and sacrificial. We cut our entertainment money into thirds and only kept a third. We reduced our food budget. We put off buying things for the house or for our personal use.

The amazing thing - and certainly thought-provoking - is that we were able to "sacrifice" hundreds of dollars without much pain. We still paid our bills, heated our home, hosted friends, went to parties, gave gifts, and stuffed our faces just fine, even with all the extra giving. And all this "comfort and joy" stood in stark contrast to the hungry, lonely, and grieving people we saw around us.

(One particularly poignant moment for me was when I sat at the giant window in Starbucks sipping my eggnog latte and working on our Christmas craft. As I people-watched and hummed along to the funky music playing, a homeless guy in ragged clothes, wrapped in an equally ragged blanket, shuffled quickly past the window, eyes downcast. I am warm and full and feasting; he is cold and hungry. My heart hurt and my eyes prickled, but I felt stuck. The place was jam-packed and I'd spread out such a bunch of papers and glue sticks and scissors and piles of things that I couldn't gather my stuff, buy the guy a hot drink, and run out to get it to him in time. I watched him pass and felt lame and hoped that someone else could react faster than me.)

This was a good exercise. We are both grateful and sobered. What abundance we have! We continue to refine our budget, seeking to be responsible and still give more.

I think we'll do this again next year. Maybe we'll get some of our friends to go in on something together. I read how other folks celebrated by having a Mediterranean meal after dropping off various donations (St. Nicholas was Turkish.) I love me some Mediterranean food, and that might be a fun way to end the day.

Next time: Our weekly Advent Family Gathering. Oh, boy. This was a hoot!


  1. I like your thoughtful processing about St. Nick. I had no idea his day was Dec. 6. I'm inspired to have more St. Nick in my own Christmastime next year. :)

  2. Stockings are my favorite part of Christmas. When J was little and we had no fireplace, we would hang the empty stockings on our bedroom doors. On Christmas morning he would find his stocking full and hanging from the door handle.


What do you think?