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Jolly Old St Nicholas
Lean your ear this way . . .
When we hear this little Christmas song, most of us picture the red-suited mall Santa, with a a shy little tot seated on his knee. But as we all know, the popular image of Santa Claus has come a long way from its beginnings with the real St Nicholas. Whether your family really gets into the Santa-side of the holidays, or doesn't "do" Santa at all, there's opportunity for adding a little seasonal learning to your homeschool by looking at the history and customs associated with St Nicholas.
When I was growing up, we didn't "do" Santa at all, but Santa Claus was a pretty big deal in my husband's childhood memories, so with our kids, we're looking for something in the middle. We've never promoted Santa much, even when the kids were little, so they always thought of him as another fun fictional character to enjoy. We loved watching Christmas specials and movies, including many that featured Santa. One year it occurred to me that maybe we should do a little unit study about the historical St Nicholas, and we had some fun celebrating his feast day. They left their shoes by the fireplace on the night before - along with paper carrots for St Nick's horse - and in the morning they were excited to find candy and a couple of small gifts that had been left. Then on Christmas morning, we didn't worry about stockings for the kids, because that part had already been done! We all liked being able to spread out the Christmas celebration and gift-giving fun a bit more, and it took the spotlight off of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, allowing us to focus a bit more on the Nativity and on family. We haven't celebrated St Nicholas every year since then, or we've done an even simpler celebration, but at the very least we do talk a bit about St Nicholas and his example of being a generous and cheerful giver.
To find out more, visit The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for my guest post about Saint Nicholas Day!
And maybe check out my Twelfth Day of Christmas post from last year, in which I shared our family recipe for Peppernuts, a cookie associated with St. Nicholas Day and Christmas in many traditions.
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