Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Feast Day of Saint Nicholas

It is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, and I don't have much to offer in terms of my own decorations.  I do have a new picture:

I am not sure if these blow up creatures are supposed to go together.  Is there some new movie I don't know about?  Lyle, Lyle Crocodile Saves Christmas?  Is that Lyle the Crocodile?  Clearly the other character is Santa, the character derived from Saint Nicholas.

It's always a bit of a surprise to realize that Saint Nicholas was a real person. But indeed he was. In the fourth century, he lived in Myra, then part of Greece, now part of Turkey; eventually, he became Bishop of Myra. He became known for his habit of gift giving and miracle working, although it's hard to know what really happened and what's become folklore. Some of his gift giving is minor, like leaving coins in shoes that were left out for him. Some were more major, like resurrecting three boys killed by a butcher.

My favorite story is the one of the poor man with three children who had no dowry for them. No dowry meant no marriage, and so, they were going to have to become prostitutes. In the dead of night, Nicholas threw a bag of gold into the house. Some legends have that he left a bag of gold for each daughter that night, while some say that he gave the gold on successive nights, while some say that he gave the gold as each girl came to marrying age.

Through the centuries, the image of Saint Nicholas has morphed into Santa Claus, but as with many modern customs, one doesn't have to dig far to find the ancient root.  I don't have many Santa Claus ornaments or decorations, but I do collect favorite pictures.  Here's one my grad school friend posted years ago to her Facebook page:

I love the ecumenical nature of this picture of Santa: Santa statues coexisting peacefully with Buddha statues. And then I thought, how perfect for the Feast Day of St. Nicholas!

More recently, a new favorite Saint Nicholas image, courtesy of my cousin's wife:

In this image, Santa communicates by way of American Sign Language. As I looked at the background of the photo, I realized Santa sits in a school--the sign on the bulletin board announces free breakfast and lunch.

The photo seems both modern and ancient to me: a saint who can communicate in the language we will hear, the promise that the hungry will be filled.

In our time, when ancient customs seem in danger of being taken over by consumerist frenzy, let us pause for a moment to reflect on gifts of all kinds. Let us remember those who don't have the money that gifts so often require. Let us invite the gifts of communication and generosity into our lives.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Free breakfast and free lunch for all students is a very Saint Nicholas type opportunity. The Lyle Lyle crocodile movie is very cute! But I think that your pic shows a T Rex with Santa