Celebrations / Greece / History

Generosity: Take a Tip from St. Nick

Sinterklaas

Photo by Gaby Kooiman

If you just woke up to a sock full of candy and goodies, then you already know that today is St. Nicholas Day. But if you’re one of the uninitiated, here’s how we learned about it.

Last year on this date we were living in Athens, Greece. Wow! I can’t believe it’s been a year!

We’d only arrived from Santorini a few days earlier, so we were totally perplexed by all the festive preparations happening in our neighborhood on December 5th. Candy was flying off grocery store shelves, trinkets were selling by the bucketful, and bakeries were struggling to keep up with the demand for cookies. What gives?

Then our friend explained that it was St. Nicholas Day – a special holiday for the kids when they received little presents from St. Nicholas in their stockings or shoes.

St. Nicholas was a Christian Bishop living in the Roman Empire in early 300 AD, and was known to be generous to the poor. As the legend goes, St. Nicholas would throw small bags of gold coins into the open windows of poor homes. After one bag of gold fell into the stocking of a child, news got around. Children soon began hanging their stocking by their chimneys “in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there”.

These days, European children and some North and South American kids happily celebrate St. Nicholas Day.

The message that I took away from the holiday was “Generosity”. It’s a great time to remind myself to be generous with my:

Communication. Calls, texts, and emails are great, but the Big Kahuna of the communication world is a letter. That’s right – snail mail with real handwriting on it. My sister Susan is a Card Artist and she makes the most astounding, handcrafted greeting cards with heartfelt notes. We always look forward to them. So I vow to write more letters.

Time and patience. During the holidays these two virtues often go hand in hand. A few years ago I volunteered on a Habitat for Humanity Christmas house raising. Because I had been a special education teacher, I worked with a group of special needs teenagers and it was one of the coolest experiences ever. The time and patience were absolutely worth it.

Possessions.  Do I have some things I could part with? It seems the answer is always yes! Instead of re-gifting that salad spinner, why not just donate it. Do I really need 4 coats when 3 would work just fine? Done! Already in the Goodwill bag.

Talent. What’s my special gift that someone else might appreciate? In the past I surprised a wonderful neighbor with a quilt made just for her. This year I’ve been learning how to make jewelry, so I donated some of my better efforts (not the lopsided earrings) to a charity drive.

Love. Tell the people that matter, THAT they matter. You know who you are and you’ll be hearing from me!

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
–Winston Churchill

Peace and Love,
Terri

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