A Christian bishop who lived in Greece during the third century, St. Nicholas was beloved by the poor for his kindness to children, his generosity to the poor and his prayers for sailors -- all attributes or actions you can recreate on the anniversary of his death on December 6. For more lighthearted observances, follow the lead of children in Germany who dress as beggars and ask for treats on December 6, or act as people do in Belgium and hold a celebration when St. Nicholas arrives with gifts and candy.
In some countries and cities, St. Nicholas Day has morphed into "Children's Day," with parades and festivities ushering in the holiday season. In Dallas, Texas, for example, huge balloons appear in the yearly December 6 parade similar to those in the New York City Thanksgiving parade. Check with towns in your area to see if you can attend special events just for children. Or take a more serious approach and volunteer in a local elementary school on that day.
Serve the Poor
In the spirit of St. Nicholas, provide help to those living in poverty in your community either on December 6 or within a few days of that date. Make a special shopping trip to the grocery store to fill bags with food to deliver to a local food bank; give money to an organization that works with the poor; or volunteer with a group such as Habitat for Humanity that helps build houses for low-income families.
Hold a Party
Kick off your own holiday season with a St. Nicolas party, introducing your family and friends to "the real Santa Claus," with pictures of the bishop, stories from children's books about him and candy canes that represent his bishop's crozier, or cane. Spend the party making simple presents for others that you can finish in a few hours, such as oranges pierced with cloves and tied with ribbon for hanging, painted picture frames or decorated sugar cookies.
Visit the Sea
In honor of St. Nicholas' status as the patron saint of sailors and travelers and also his early pilgrimage to the Holy Land, take a trip in observance of St. Nicholas Day. Choose a simple walk around a local lake in your area or schedule a longer and more serious pilgrimage to a site you find sacred, whether it's a national park or a cathedral. Or, get to know the life of a sailor by signing up for a boating course or renting a kayak for the afternoon.
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