“And now the LORD says-- he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength-- he says: 'It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.'"Country in Focus: The Netherlands
Tradition: St. Nicholas
Activity: Celebrate St. Nicholas Eve! Make Snowman Soup! Place out your shoes for a small gift.
Materials: hot cocoa, large marshmallows, very large mugs or soup crocks with handles,
Make hot cocoa and put in the large marshmallow. We put them in soup bowls and my kids and I call that snow man soup. Just for something different and fun.
Also, have your kids put a pair of shoes out on the front porch and stick something in them. Put in something small like a matchbox car or a piece of candy. One year, I think I did a small set of Legos. But if you are doing food, you might want to pick a really clean pair of shoes!
Who is Saint Nicholas? This is really an interesting study, especially if you have older children. It's also a great review if you have been doing Year 2 of Tapestry of Grace!
Saint Nicholas, who was never officially canonized, was actually Bishop Nicholas who lived in the 300s in present day Turkey. There are many legends of miracles associated with Nicholas. Whether or not you believe those to be true, one thing is generally believed about Nicholas of Myra, he was a very giving man.
The story behind Nicholas' gifts is that if someone left their shoes out on their porch overnight, Nicholas would drop money into them. As time went on in the town, people began to leave their shoes out for Nicholas. Now, in some countries, including the Netherlands, on the night before Saint Nicholas' birthday, children leave their shoes out on their porch to receive a present.
Saint Nicholas is known by different names in other countries: Santa Claus, Santa, or Father Christmas. In the Netherlands, he is known as Sinterklaas. They receive their presents on December 5. Children place a pair of wooden shoes outside and the next morning a small present is inside. Besides putting out shoes, they also drink hot chocolate milk.
I found that a study of Nicholas himself was a great review of the Council of Nicea and Arianism. According to legend, during the first ecumenical council called by Constantine in 325 A.D., Bishop Nicholas of Myra was absolutely horrified by the assertions of Arius of Egypt. While all the other bishops listened, Arius argued that Jesus as the Son of God was not equal to God the Father. The Holy Trinity itself was called into question. Nicholas would not stand by and allow that to happen. He walked across the room and slapped Arius. Of course, all of this is testified to by a biographer 500 years after the council convened and by a group with an agenda to make Nicholas a saint. Records do not show Nicholas as one of the bishops at the council. However, it was a great opportunity to review Arius, his theological arguments, and the council's decisions again with my children.
Santa Claus has become quite controversial. It's unfortunate that the focus has become on the materialism of the presents. To me, Saint Nicholas represents generosity, even if most of the things attributed to him are myth. It's the spirit that gives hope! It's awesome to think that a man would behave in such a way simply because of his love for Jesus and his joy over celebrating His birth!
Whether or not you allow your children to participate in this activity, I hope that you will have fun discussing other countries' traditions about Saint Nicholas!