Friday, December 9, 2011

Legendary St. Nicholas

I am really so confused about why we lie to children about St. Nicholas and Santa Klaus alike.  A few years back when people started to tell my kids about Santa Klaus, of course it was all lies--"Legends" I guess people call it.  Then of course, friends and family asked us about what lies we would be telling our children--you know, so they could keep our lies consistent with the lies they were going to tell our children about Santa.  I felt the need to keep the lies consistent as well, especially since this year my son has 101 questions about St. Nicholas/Santa, which is what I have turned the lie into.  The more questions he asks the more lies I have to make up on the spot.  Initially, it did not occur to me to tell the truth, because Santa was a fun part of childhood for me.  It took me to eight or nine to stop believing.  I felt like a grownup that year but, if you think about it, that's not very old.  When the lies began for our kids, I initially thought that I did not want to be Scroogey and banish such fun from childhood.  However, this year as Alex asks more questions the more I have bitter taste in my mouth about lying.

Why can we not tell the children the true story of St. Nicholas including the fact that he is dead and in heaven?  I suppose because most of the stories of St. Nicholas that survive in perpetuity are that of mythological legend.  It's really no better than all the stories we make up or is it?  There are some very good lessons to be learned from those legends that I think are lost today.  The legend of St. Nicholas giving dowries secretly in the stockings of three sisters teaches of giving to the less fortunate.  There are legends of him protecting children and this teaches us to protect the helpless.  All of the legends, involve acts of great faith, fasting, prayer, works of mercy and almsgiving.  These things are good.  Perhaps we ought to do better learning the proper legends rather than making up our personal pack of family lies about St. Nicholas.

I think a far better thing would be to tell the children that they are receiving gifts in secret, because that is the way St. Nicholas gave gifts, not because St. Nicholas is actually the one giving them.  We want to give in this way for several reasons.  If we give in secret we need not take glory for ourselves.  All glory ought to be given to God who gave us all things.  We must not forget this fact that all we have are not rights, but gifts from God.  We also ought to give in secret so as not to embarrass the recipient as one may not feel worthy and not accept the gift.  No one likes the feeling of receiving a hand out.

The pack of lies of has been told to my children for this year and will sustain through Christmas, because we have family obligations to fill (family traditions are important too).  However in the future, I would like to tell the kids the truth about the gifts and tell them the legends as well along with the corresponding morals.  It will be so much easier to not be making up lies and stories on the spot that do not express the meaning and importance of good works and gift giving during preparation for Christmas.  I think that we can really make this fun too.  For example, I think I will ask each grandparent to give a small secret gift for the kids stocking on St. Nicholas day next year.  The children will receive the gifts with an understanding that those who love them gave them gifts. They can give a larger not so secret gift to the kids on Christmas day.

One interesting thing that came out of the Alex's questioning this year was, "Why does St. Nicholas like to give to children?"  I told him it was because children have nothing.  Everything they have must be given to them, because they do not go to work and earn the things they have.  And even if kids did work, they would not be able to work enough to be able to support themselves.  So we must give to children.

…Okay enough heaviness.  How about pictures from the two St. Nicholas parties we went to:

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Here is Alex telling St. Nicholas that he has only been "a little" good this year.  St. Nicholas told him he needed to be "a lot" good.

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Here is Kristiana and St. Nicholas trying to divine toddler speak…Then St. Nicholas gave the kids gifts, but not in secret. (I guess the real gift givers were secret).

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At the second, St. Nicholas party the kids are playing "Pass the Money Bag."  Music played and when it stopped the child holding the bag won the bag of chocolate coins.  But, she also had to come to me to learn a secret about St. Nicholas.  I told her that St. Nicholas would share the gold coins with others and I asked her to share them.  The little girl excitedly passed out the gold coins to everyone.  She was really sweet.

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The kids put their shoes under the Christmas tree to receive a secret gift from St. Nicholas.

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I made ornaments for the kids to decorate.  The far left is the back side of the ornament.  We also had coloring pages and a picture I drew that the kids could glue cotton balls on for a beard.

Alex St Nicholas 1

Alex drew the St. Nicholas below all by himself.

Alex St Nicholas 2

Finally, at our party I introduced the kids and mothers to the Ukrainian hymn "Children Who Love St. Nicholas" (http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/children-who-who-love/).

All the party ideas and coloring and materials are from www.stnicholascenter.org

5 comments:

Holly Bennett said...

I will be so glad when we can stop the Santa Klaus thing. Michael came to the conclusion last year that he could not possibly be real but then decided to believe anyway just in case he was.

I decided to keep St. Nicholas and Santa Klaus seperate and I am so glad I did. It so nice to be able to say to my kids that on St. Nicholas day they will recieve gifts in secret from loved ones. To remember to always be givers of good gifts and to bring joy to others without calling attention to yourself. To always remember the model that St. Nicholas, a man who loves God and others and who is in Heaven, gave us.

priest's wife said...

lots of food for thought- it is a problem to tell kids the absolute truth because others will be really mad

some things we do:
-we celebrate St Nicholas on his feast
-he comes back to bring stockings only on Christmas Eve (presents and big ticket items are from parents)
-santas at the mall are called santa's helpers- spreading Christmas joy, but they are not St Nicholas
- we don't go crazy with 'elf on the shelf' and constantly talking about 'santa knows if you are good or bad'- that's God's job

Renee Clayton said...

I just think this Santa guy needs to get out of the equation. He's the part that doesn't make any sense.

Alex asked about why the guy who came to the party wasn't the real St. Nicholas. I had to tell him that it was because St. Nicholas only comes in secret. So he sent his friend instead to give out present instead. But, that was a lie.

What would have been correct is that we like to remember the real St. Nicholas who is in heaven by celebrating his feast and dressing up as him.

Shane said...

We said that Saint Nicholas is helping us remember to show love to each other by giving gifts. I guess I am hoping this will gradually make sense.
We did say that he is dead and in heaven though, not at the North Pole. I am not sure exactly what Tessa thinks at this point :)

Annie said...

Well, I told my children the absolute truth from the beginning - and didn't care a whit if someone was mad. Parents actually lying to children is just obscene to me.

Now, that does NOT preclude the fun of PRETENDING that Santa exists! I also always thought that the pretense with parents and children "playing" at it together, is SO much more fun than parents tricking their children for - what reason?

I never wanted my children to have any reason not to believe me when I talked about Jesus, so it would have been a strange precedent to set to lie about Santa.

Furthermore, I wonder when I hear parents laugh about their children's "reaction" (often sorrow, disappointment, even anger) when they "find out". How can any truly loving parent think it is OK to deliberately create that sort of pain unnecessarily?