December 4, 2010

Starting New Traditions

Song of Saint Nicholas
by J.M Rosenthal

Children everywhere agree
Each December now to be
Ready, eager, all to greet
The great saint we wait to meet.

Bearing gifts, he first recalls
If we have been good at all,
In our work, at home or play
All before St Nicholas day.

With his helpers at his side,
Celebrating far and wide,
He's the real Santa Claus,
Hail our kind St Nicholas

Now he leads us one and all
To the Christmas manger stall
Sees the babe, he bows the knee
For the prince of peace—tis he!

So in Myra stories told
His great love, his actions bold,
Pilgrims now to Bari go
So the legends all may know.

Now the day of joy and fun
Ole St Nick, his work is done,
Says goodbye to young and old
By whom still his tales are told.

There are many traditions to share with one another at this season, some old, some new enough to be rediscovered! Recollecting the date, December 6th is the feast of Saint Nicholas of Bari, the Simple Mind writes a bit about this personage. More often called Saint Nicholas of Myra or more often, Santa Claus was indeed a real person. As a saint of the Church and a most highly favored saint of Greek Orthodoxy, he is also  revered in Russia, to mention a few places. Little is known of his earliest years, but he was said to have been born about 460 or 480 AD in Patara, he was highly influenced by the teachings of another saint, Saint Augustine of Hippo; he was so moved that he became one of their community. Later he was made bishop of the ancient diocese of Myra, Asia Minor, today part of Turkey. Tracing the life of this saint proves to be an interesting travel itinerary.

He is attributed with several characteristics: he taught the Christian gospel vigorously, like the good shepherd and was imprisoned during  persecutions of Diocletian. Specifically, Roman Emperor Diocletian rescinded the legal rights of Christians and demanded that they observe traditional Roman religious practice. Freed from prison by Emperor Constantine, Nicholas was said to have been present at the Council of Nicaea held in 325 AD in Alexandria, Egypt. Later as Bishop, he worked to save the lives of three men, is said to be the saint of children, sailors, to have encouraged the active practice of Charity as taught by the Christ, to love one another. This was remarkable in his world where an eye for an eye reigned supreme. He died at Myra and was buried within his Cathedral.

This December, learn about the Saint, share in his practice and make the holiday bright. Today we offer treats and chocolates to one another and observe many other customs inspired by Saint Nicholas. Exchanging gifts is one practice recalling the birth of the Christ child that is also attributed to Saint Nicholas.

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