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By VINCE LUECKE, Editor
I haven’t yet decided which old shoe I am going to put out for Nicholas’ visit tonight. With any luck, I will find a few pieces of chocolate inside the next morning.
I think I will put the shoe outside The News office. St. Nicholas hasn’t been able to find me the last couple of years in New Boston, so I’m going to make it easier on him.
Do I really expect to find sweets in my shoe Tuesday? Perhaps a few friends will come by. But even if they don’t, St. Nicholas Day is worth observing.
While some people need no introduction to the legend of St. Nicholas — they and their ancestors have been putting out shoes on the eve of his feast day for generations — others may know nothing about the fourth-century bishop who was revered for his love of children, and whose generosity helped to inspire some of our own Christmas traditions.
A bishop in modern-day Turkey, Nicholas was a friend to the poor and downtrodden during his saintly life. After his death, more legendary stories were passed along. Along with miraculous powers of calming storms — which made him the patron saint of sailors — and raising to life dead children, Nicholas is also credited with safeguarding the virtue of three poor girls.
According to the legend, the father of the three young women was too poor to provide them dowries and faced the prospect of abandoning them to lives of prostitution. In response, St. Nicholas tossed a bag of gold into the oldest girl’s room at night, providing the needed dowry for her to marry. He did the same, a year or so later, for the second daughter, and finally, for the youngest.
Trying to avoid being seen, Nicholas allegedly threw the final bag of gold down the family’s chimney, where it landed in a stocking hung to dry.
Sound familiar? In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas is known as Sinterklaas, from which sprang the name of Santa Claus.
Generations of Europeans have put their shoes out in the days ahead of St. Nicholas Day, hoping the white-bearded bishop would stop by their homes as he traveled the countryside by night.
St. Nicholas Day is Dec. 6 and Europeans coming to the rolling hills of southern Indiana brought with them their holiday traditions, among them the observance of St. Nicholas Day.
Maybe it’s whimsy or just nostalgia, but St. Nicholas will find my shoe outside the newspaper-office door on Main Street.
Take time this week to share the story of St. Nicholas with your kids. Google his name if you need more information. Put your shoes out Monday night. It’s a great way to kick off the Christmas season – and a noncommercialized way to honor the spirit of giving that Christmas is supposed to be all about.