Thursday, December 06, 2012

Feast of Saint Nicholas

Russian Icon, at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Saint Nicholas 5

Russian icon of Saint Nicholas, at Saint Louis University.

The stories about Santa Claus are insignificant compared to the legends of his namesake, Saint Nicholas the Bishop of Myra, whose veneration as a saint throughout history is second only to the Blessed Virgin.

Santa Claus gives toys to good little girls and boys, but Saint Nicholas saved little children from lives of prostitution — and we are not told if they were good or bad, if that mattered. Saint Nicholas is a patron saint of children, but he is also the patron of thieves, murderers, pirates, and prostitutes, for even the very wicked are in need heavenly help.

The Christian life is serious business indeed, but this means that festivity is also important. The commercialization and secularization of the seasons of Advent and Christmas are well-known, but the answer is not to turn these popular observances into something personal and private. The Puritans forbade the celebration of Christmas, because they thought its celebration turned people away from Christ: but it was the Puritans who eventually turned away from Christ, not the celebrants.

Mulled wine is a traditional beverage for celebrating Saint Nicholas' Day: red wine, cloves, cinnamon, and perhaps lemon, orange. mace, apple cider, nutmeg, raisins, and sugar (or any combination of the above) are simmered together for several minutes, and the beverage is consumed while warm. The Saint Nicholas Center website has many other popular customs for celebrating the feast.

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