Tomorrow, Sunday 6th December is the Second Sunday of Advent and it is also the feast of St Nicholas.
Today in Canterbury because this is the nearest Saturday to his feast day, there would have been a procession with St Nicholas through the streets to the cathedral for a special service. But the present pandemic has prevented that from going ahead.
As you know, our Father Christmas known as Santa Claus, the names derives in part from the Dutch Sinterklaas, the Saint’s name in that language. Nicholas was the fourth-century Bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor. Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the Saint’s feast. In many countries it is on this day that small secret gifts are left for children.
As we approach Christmas we can find ourselves agonising over what gifts we can give to our loved ones. Perhaps we need to think about how we extend our giving to those who are in real need. Also what is the most valuable gift we can give to another?