Christmas Around the World – Greece
Today we head to Greece where Saint Nicolas was born and served as bishop of Myra.
December 6th is Saint Nicholas Day in many Western Christian countries. In the Netherlands, it is on December 5th and in Eastern Christian countries, December 19th is the feast of Saint Nicholas.
St. Nicholas is derived from Nicholas of Myra who was a bishop in 4th century Greece. Saint Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey.
When Nicholas was still young, both his parents died in an epidemic and left Nicholas a large inheritance. As a devout Christian, he felt called by God to use his inheritance to assist the poor and the needy around him. Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. As a Bishop, he became know for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. December 6th marks the anniversary of his death on December 6th, 343 AD.
The most famous story from his life is said to be historical in its essence. It is the story of how Saint Nicholas rescued the three young maidens with gold for their dowries. To learn more about the life and stories of Saint Nicholas, as well as art and activities for children, go to St. Nicholas Center at http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/gift-giver/
I would like to recommend a picture book about Saint Nicholas Day –
The Gift From Saint Nicolas by Dorothea Lachner, illustrated by Maja Dusikova (1994)
For ages 5-8
This book was originally published in German and translated into English by J. Alison James. The author, Dorothea Lachner, has written several books for children and for children’s radio programs in Germany and Austria. The illustrator Maja Dusikova was born in Piestany, Czechoslovakia, and now lives in Florence, Italy.
This story is about Saint Nicholas day in a small village in Europe.
The story begins:
“It had been snowing for a over week. Day after Day, night after night. The wind has blown high snow mountains against the houses, and the village was white, and cold, and silent..”
The villagers in this little European village tried at first to clear the snow but as the snow kept falling, they finally gave up. Everyone was trapped in their homes and were all feeling lonely. It’s Saint Nicholas eve. Anna and Misha are worried that Saint Nicolas day will not be the same without Grandfather Gregor and all their friends.
Their wish this year is that Saint Nicholas would blow a path through the snow. But Saint Nicolas is a wise man and the gift he chooses for the villagers is far better than what Anna and Misha wished for. It leads to a joyful celebration!
I love that this Saint Nicholas gets around, not in a reindeer drawn sleigh, but on skis. But most of all, I love the message of the story, that often what we ask for and what we want is not actually what we need.