Ideas from Churches—
Detail, Postcard, Netherlands
by Babette Harms
St Nicholas Center Collection
Breakfast with St. Nicholas
When I came here eight years ago they used to have a Breakfast with Santa Claus. I asked that it be changed to Breakfast with St. Nicholas and it is on the Sunday nearest to the Feast of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas shares gifts with the children at the breakfast. It really has helped children understand the genesis of Santa Claus.
—Father Tom Simons, St. Frances de Sales Parish, Muskegon, MI
Bishop of Myra Party
We have purple everything and a parishioner dresses as the Bishop. The children bring canned goods for a present for Saint Nicholas, which he donates to our local food bank. We take pictures of the children with the Bishop and he gives the children chocolate gold coins and candy canes. We eat cake and drink grape kool-aid.
—Tara Thomas, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Hickory, North Carolina
Twelve Holy Apostles volunteers
Cookies and Cocoa for All!
Church volunteers celebrate St. Nicholas Day, December 6, by standing on the sidewalk in front of the church and handing out free coffee, hot cocoa, and cookies to neighbors and other passers-by.
—Twelve Holy Apostles Orthodox Church, Duluth, Minnesota
St. Nicholas Celebration & Chocolate Making
Following Mass on the Sunday closest to St. Nicholas Day, children ages 4–13 are invited to a party. Each child brings a food item to be donated to a local food pantry in the spirit of St. Nicholas. A parent must accompany each child. Chocolate creations include dipped pretzels, Oreos, and more. Children may take an assortment of the chocolate creations home to share with family and friends. Sign-ups are needed the week ahead.
—Church of the Holy Spirit, Webster, New York
St. Nicholas in Three Episcopal Parishes
Each year on the Sunday nearest his feast day, St. Nicholas visits Sunday School classes at Saint Stephen's in Sherman, Texas. He gives chocolate gold coins and bookmarks to the children. In Marietta, Georgia, during classes at St. Catherine's, all the children and youth leave their shoes outside their classrooms. When they come out, they find each shoe filled with homemade cookies, chocolate coins, bookmarks, and tangerines. On the Sunday nearest St. Nicholas day in Rochester, Michigan, parishioners at Saint Philip's, leave their shoes in the narthex before the service. Afterwards each person reclaims shoes now filled with an orange and three chocolate gold coins.
Photo: St. John Chrysostom Church
Gifts FOR Saint Nicholas
Children are the gift-bringers on St. Nicholas Day, bringing brightly wrapped presents FOR St. Nicholas. So the children GIVE and St. Nicholas RECEIVES. All in the spirit of St. Nicholas, of course. Children line up to present the gifts, one by one, to St. Nicholas. The gifts and children are all blessed. Gifts are later distributed by local social service agencies. The good saint told the priest, "I can see you've been teaching the children to love others by giving to the poor." One parishioner's comment, "It is definitely a good message to the children because they so often hear Christmas is about getting, getting getting."
—St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church, York, Pennsylvania
Visits with puppet St. Nicholas
St. Nicholas gives a short account of his life before children come up to meet him. Earlier parents have provided a list of three things their children have accomplished in the previous year. Each child is called up to meet the St. Nicholas puppet who comments on their wonderful accomplishments. Then each child receives a gingerbread cookie (made by parents the night before).
—Mike Kilman, St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, Castle Rock, Colorado
Toy Collection for St. Nicholas Celebration
On the Sunday nearest his feast day, everyone is asked to bring a new toy to church for the St. Nicholas Celebration. After toys are brought to the altar, they and the homes where they will go are blessed. The children then follow special guest St. Nicholas to the Godly Play room where they learn more about him and his special way of giving and caring for those in need throughout the year. The boxes of new toys, books, and games are distributed through the Domestic Violence Services and the county Social Services.
—Shirley Mustard, St. John's Episcopal Church, Bedford, Virginia
St. Nicholas visits children at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Oak Park, Illinois, and collects gifts from the children to be given to Native-American children living in an urban parish.
St. Nicholas Sunday Celebration focused on others
Intergenerational event before worship has something for everyone. Participants are sent home with cookies previously decorated by the youth. Each person is given a mission to brighten someone's life with a gift of the cookies. St. Nicholas visits, too, of course.
—Bill Techau, Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church, Champaign, Illinois
St. Nicholas Gift of Prayer
St. Nicholas Day is a bit more festive than usual and the traditional celebration is light-hearted. At supper there is a gingerbread man at each person's place and a large gingerbread bishop for each table. Guests and others decorate the bishop cookie. After the meal, guests tell the story of Saint Nicholas in a live presentation. Every year is different, of course—it may be with puppets or other simple drama. Next a special visitor—St. Nicholas—comes. He carries a basket with the name of each person present printed on a small decorated card. Each person draws a card from the basket. The person whose name you receive is your gift—the person for whom you will pray in a special way for the coming year. St. Nicholas' gift of prayer for each person, giving and receiving.
—Madonna House, Combermere, Ontario, Canada
Booties for Treats at St. Nicholas Party
Chocolate coins and candy are put into clear plastic party-favor baby booties. The booties need to be a large size (2 x 3 inches, with an opening 1 3/8 x 1 5/8 inches—not all party favor booties are that big!). The booties are put into children's shoes—everyone loves them! Chocolate quarters are recommended; the pictured booties have chocolate half-dollars. Booties are available from partyfavorsplus.com or on eBay, where they may be a bit less.
—St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Temecula, California
St. Nicholas Feast Day
Kh. Victoria Ziton sewed felt St. Nicholas shoes and filled them with assorted candies for the children (PDF pattern). Following Divine Liturgy, a potluck dinner was served. After dinner, the children gathered at tables to make St. Nicholas icon Christmas tree ornaments. Then Fr. Stephen told them the story of St. Nicholas' life. At the end of his lesson, Kh. Victoria told the story of the three daughters and the gold coins. She then handed out the St. Nicholas shoes to all the children in attendance.
—St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral, Toledo, OH
St. Nicholas Day Celebration
Every year on St. Nicholas Day, we have a celebration, including a play put on by our youth about the life of St. Nicholas. We also put on a talent show for each other, and, at the end of the celebration, Saint Nicholas himself comes to visit, giving gifts to all. Even the adults love to sit on Saint Nicholas' knee and tell him what they want for Christmas!
—St. Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Church, Lima, OH
Photo: Saint Mary the Virgin, Finedon, UK
Used by permission
St. Nicholas Feast Day
Saint Nicholas joins the introit procession at the Sunday Parish Eucharist closest to 6 December. He is given a place of honour in the sactuary until the Communion of the people. The sermon, directed at the children in the hope that adults are listening as well, is about the story of St. Nicholas, which is tied in with the message of the Gospel. Then St. Nicholas stands in the chancel with his helpers and gives bags of chocolate coins to everyone who comes to the high altar for communion or to receive a blessing. Each person receives one bag of chocolate coins—however, if they have removed their shoes and placed them on the floor as they kneel at the altar, a second bag is put in the shoe by St. Nicholas and his helpers, the altar servers.
—Fr. John Humphries, Saint Mary the Virgin Anglican Parish, Finedon, England, UK
St. Nicholas Feast Day Celebration
In Church we've organised all-afternoon activities for St Nicholas' feast. It's a children's event with games, songs, dances (from the different countries who know saint Nicholas), a faith lunch and . . . people (from France, like me, or Spain) come and share their experiences about saint Nicholas. This year I asked two actors to come and play the dialogue of Saint Nicholas and his helper Peter (who was not a frightening black Peter!). They offer honey cakes and sweets to the children at the end. I had also a display with beautiful posters about Lorraine and Saint Nicholas. We used activities (drawing and making 3-D Saint Nicholas) for the feast day and the week before at the children's centre where my daughter goes.
—Nathalie Henry, Withington Methodist Church, Manchester, United Kingdom
St. Nicholas Feast Day
We have vespers in the evening. After this the children are told about St. Nicholas and refreshments such as ciders and small cakes are served. We would never consider having someone dress up as St. Nicholas as we believe that he and all the saints are truly present in our church.
On the next day—the feast day itself—the Divine Liturgy is celebrated. We should fast before receiving communion and then eat breakfast afterwards. Due to the fact that the day is usually a workday, people then proceed to work and eat a special meal at home in the evening. If the day happens to be a Saturday or a Sunday, a large pot-luck meal is served in the church hall.
—St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, Ottawa, Canada
St. Nicholas Feast Day
We celebrate St. Nicholas Feast Day with all of our children and youth at our church. The children place their shoes outside of their classrooms during the Christian Education hour and during that time they are filled with candy coins, a tangerine [or Clementine], and sometimes a prayer card of St. Nicholas. We have Speculaas Cookies from A Continual Feast cookbook by Evelyn Birge Vitz, made with a St. Nicholas cutter rather than a Santa Claus. The children will also have a visit from "St. Nicholas" who shares some stories of his life with them. Our first through third graders have a prayer service for the feast day.
—St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia
St. Nicholas Feast Day Celebration
Parents and children begin with a prayer service in the church and then go immediately to the parish hall to meet and talk with St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas tells about St. Nicholas' love of God and spirit of generosity, as well as the origin of Santa Claus Children are asked to bring a new toy to be donated to children in need. A raffle is held with Christmas items, all proceeds going to buy gifts for children in need. The celebration is for children of all ages, accompanied by an adult.
—Saint John Baptist Parish, Suncook, New Hampshire