December 6th is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, which appropriately falls during the Advent season.Â This feast day is an especially exciting one for children as they count down the days on their Advent calendars in anticipation of Christmas day.
Ideas to include in your childrenâ€™s shoes are bags of chocolate candy coins, a small toy, new socks, a tangerine, and inexpensive religious items, such as a Christmas ornament, a rosary, saint bracelet, and prayer cards. Â You can also include candy canes which symbolize a shepherdâ€™s staff, and even have a little fun by re-shaping them into a bishopâ€™s crosier .
Bakeries and home kitchens are hives of activity as spiced gingerbread biscuits and mannala (a brioche shaped like the saint) are baked. In schools, children learn songs and poems and create arts and crafts about St. Nicolas, while in nursery schools, a man portraying St. Nicolas gives away chocolates and sometimes little presents.
Yes . . . St. Nicholas was known to ride a donkey laden with gifts for children before he graduated to flying reindeer!
St. Therese of Lisieux describes this tradition in her home in France as a small child and recounts how much she loved it. However, for her family this happened not on St. Nicholas Day but on Christmas Eve.
â€œI knew that when we reached home after Midnight Mass I should find my shoes in the chimney-corner, filled with presents, just as when I was a little child . . . Papa, too, liked to watch my enjoyment and hear my cries of delight at each fresh surprise that came from the magic shoes, and his pleasure added to mine.â€Â ~ St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul
St. Nicholasâ€™ feast day traditions vary widely from country to country, but they all carry the same theme of small gifts and treats left in either shoes or stockings.
Continuing this Advent tradition in your own home is a great way to teach your children to venerate the saints and to deepen their knowledge of and love for the Christian faith.
Another tradition thatâ€™s becoming fun to do with small children is the St. Nicholas Day Blessing of the Candy Canes. The prayer below is a beautiful reflection of Catholic faith.
St. Nicholas Day Candy Cane Blessing Prayer
Good St. Nicholas, we honor you
on this your holy feast day.
We rejoice that you are the patron saint
and the holy symbol of joy
for many peoples of many lands.
Come, great-hearted saint,
and be our patron and companion
as we, once again, prepare our homes and hearts
for the great feast of Christmas,
the birth of the Eternal Blessing, Jesus Christ.
May these sweets, these candy canes,
be a sign of Advent joy for us.
May these candy canes,
shaped just like your Bishopâ€™s staff,
be for us a sign of your benevolent care.
We rejoice that you are the holy bringer of gifts
and that so many have been delighted
through your great generosity.
Help us to be as generous of heart.
Wherever these candy canes are hung,
on tree or wall or door,
may they carry with them
the bright blessing of God.
May all who shall taste them
experience the joy of God
upon their tongues and in their hearts.
We ask God, now, to bless
these your brightly striped sweets
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.