Saint Nicholas Day at Meadowbrook Waldorf School
The children in the lower grades were busy yesterday tidying their rooms and placing their shoes out neatly in anticipation for a visit from Saint Nicholas. This morning those eager boys and girls found treasures of clementines and small shells in their shoes waiting for them, sometimes with a hint of glitter left behind from their secret visitor.
Who is Saint Nicholas?
Today the children celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. Saint Nicholas was a bishop born in the 4th century. He was known for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, pawnbrokers.* Saint Nicholas day is celebrated throughout Europe and is honored by Waldorf schools and Waldorf inspired homes and homeschoolers as well.
Legends of Saint Nicholas
One of the most popular stories of St Nicholas tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas.**
Our German teacher shares this poem about Sankt Nikolaus translated into English.
Knecht Ruprecht – Theodor Storm
From out of the forest I now appear, to proclaim that Christmastide is here!
For at the top of every tree are golden lights for all to see;
and there from Heaven’s gate on high I saw our Christ-child in the sky.
And in among the darkened trees, a loud voice it was that called to me:
‘Knecht Ruprecht, old fellow’ it cried, ‘hurry now, make haste, don’t hide!
All the candles have now been lit – Heaven’s gate has opened wide!
Both hong and old should snow have rest away from cares and daily stress;
and when tomorrow to earth I fly “It’s Christmas again!” will be the cry.’
And then I said: ‘O Lord so dear. My journey’s end is now quite near;
but to this town I’ve still to go, Where the children are good, I know.’
‘But have you then that great sack?’
‘I have’ I said, ‘it’s on my back.
For apples, almonds, fruit and nuts for God-fearing children are a must.’
‘And is that cane there by your side?’
The cane’s there too,’ I did reply;
but only for those, those naughty ones, who have it applied to their backsides.’
The Christ-child spoke: ‘Then that’s all right! My loyal servant, go with God this night!’
From out of the forest I now appear; To proclaim that Christmastide is here!
Now speak, what is there here to be had?
Are there good children, are there bad?