Saints and Feasts of the Season: Saint Nicholas of Myra (4th Century)

Author: Nicholle Check ~ November 21, 2017


Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, an ancient seaport city in Lycia (Lysh’uh), an area that is in present-day Turkey. So many legends have been told about Saint Nicholas that some people wonder if he was a real person. But there is evidence that a very real Saint Nicholas participated in the Council of Nicaea. It has also been recorded that he was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith by the Emperor Diocletian.

As a young man, Nicholas lost his parents when they became ill during an epidemic. After they died, he used his inheritance to help the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He became widely known and loved for his dedication to God and his generous service to those who needed help. Many stories about Saint Nicholas focus on his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors.

One story about the Nicholas’ generosity involves a man who had three daughters. The man was so poor that he couldn’t afford to provide dowries for the girls. Without husbands to protect them, the girls were in danger of being sold into slavery. To save them from that fate, Nicholas provided a bag of gold for each girl. It is said, though, that he did so anonymously, throwing the bags of gold into a window of their home. According to the story, the bags landed in the girls’ shoes that had been left on the hearth. Because of this story, children in some countries leave their shoes out on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day (December 6) in hopes of receiving gifts from Saint Nicholas.

In another story, Nicholas was returning by ship from the Holy Land when a storm threatened to break the ship apart. His prayers calmed the wind and the seas, and all were safe. He is often credited with saving sailors caught in stormy seas and is considered the patron saint of sailors and those who make sea voyages.

The Church honors Saint Nicholas on December 6, the day of his death. Because of his love of children, the tradition of Saint Nicholas bringing gifts to children on his feast day is observed in many European countries. Children receive treats and small gifts in their shoes or in their stockings. Immigrants brought the tradition with them to the United States. The generosity of Saint Nicholas and a mispronunciation of his name are also responsible for the tradition of Santa Claus, who brings gifts on Christmas Eve. Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day with your children with the following, age-appropriate activities:

  • Preschool: Seeds children will enjoy learning a song about Saint Nicholas and learning about the practice of putting out their shoes to receive a surprise.

Invite the children to sit in a circle, take off their shoes, and put them in the center of the circle. Then share an age-appropriate version of the story of Saint Nicholas. You will want the children to know that Saint Nicholas was a bishop—a leader in our Church—and that he used all of his money to take care of people who were poor and needed help. Many times, he helped sailors and children who needed protection.

After the story, ask the children if they would like to help someone as Saint Nicholas did. Let them take turns picking up a shoe from the pile in the center of the circle and returning it to the owner.

Then ask the children if they would like to put their shoes out in hope that Saint Nicholas will leave a gift for them. Have them place their shoes outside your meeting room or space. Then take the children back inside. Have someone ready to fill the shoes with a treat: a candy cane, a small Advent calendar, candy such as foil-wrapped gold coins, and the like. Your accomplice could be an older student who enjoys helping. Ask your helper to give a quiet sign when he or she has finished filling the shoes.

While you wait for the sign that the treats have been distributed, teach the children this song about Saint Nicholas, sung to the tune of “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas”:

Holy Bishop Nicholas,
You were kind and good.
Help us see what others need,
and help them as we should.

  • Grades K–1: Promise children will enjoy making a Saint Nicholas stocking and a promise to help someone at home. For this project, provide construction paper, scissors, a hole punch, yarn or ribbon, jingle bells, markers, decorations, small slips of paper, and pencils.

Trace the shape of a stocking onto a double thickness of construction paper. Cut out the stockings. Punch holes every half inch around the edge of the cutouts, except along the top of the cutouts. Give each child two stocking cutouts with holes already punched for lacing. Show the children how to line up the two cutouts. Have them put their name on what will be the back of the Saint Nicholas stocking.

Let children choose the yarn or ribbon they would like to use for lacing. Show them how to begin lacing at the top, going through the single layer of holes at the top of one cutout, then going through both paper stockings as they proceed along the side, around the heel and toe, and up to the top. There, they will tie a bow with the two ends of yarn or ribbon and add a jingle bell to the end of one tie.

Give the children time to decorate their stockings with markers, stickers, sequins, glitter glue, and so on. While the stockings dry, tell the story of Saint Nicholas, stressing how happy he was to help others. Ask the children to think of someone at home who could use their help. Offer a few suggestions, and ask the children to share their own ideas. (sharing toys with a sibling; helping a younger sibling with a puzzle or game; helping Mom or Dad with dishes, laundry, or cleaning the garage; playing checkers with Grandpa)

Give each child a slip of paper and ask the children to write down what they will do to help someone. Have them slip the promise into the stocking they made. Ask them to give the Saint Nicholas stocking and promise to the person they will help at home.

  • Grades 2–3: Have Good News children make Advent calendars that will help them to imitate Saint Nicholas as they prepare for Christmas. For this project, provide preprinted copies of a calendar page for December, one copy for each child, and pencils and markers.

Read or tell the story of Saint Nicholas. For a child-friendly version, see page 2 of their Good News lesson for December 10. Ask the children to think of ways they can imitate Saint Nicholas as they get ready for Christmas, especially by doing things for others without being asked or in secret. Write their ideas on an erasable board or on a sheet of newsprint.

Give each child a preprinted calendar page for the month of December. Have them mark the feast of Saint Nicholas (December 6) and Christmas (December 25). Then ask them to write in each square between the two dates a good deed, prayer, or way to help others. They may use the ideas on the list or add their own ideas. If some children “get stuck” and can’t think of enough ideas for all the squares, suggest that they ask other children for suggestions. Point out that praying and helping others is a great way for them to prepare their hearts to welcome Jesus on Christmas Day.

Allow time for the children to color and add small drawings to their calendar. Encourage them to take their Advent calendars home and to do the action for each day.

  • Grades 4–6: One consistent fact in all the stories about Saint Nicholas is that he was a bishop. Help Venture children celebrate Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, by making miters and blessing cards to give to the pastor and members of the parish and school staff. For this project, provide a picture of a bishop wearing a miter and holding a crosier, a pattern for drawing a miter, pencils, scissors, light card stock or heavy paper, a hole punch, yarn or ribbon, and small candy canes.

After reading or telling the story of Saint Nicholas, ask students to recall how he cared for God’s people. Help the children to remember the signs of a bishop—the miter (his hat) and crosier (his staff). Point out that the staff is a sign that the bishop is called to be a shepherd who leads the people in his diocese by his example.

Copy a miter shape onto light card stock, one copy for each child. Punch two small holes about three inches apart, anywhere along the miter cutout. Show the children how a candy cane will fit through the holes to represent Bishop Nicholas’s crosier. Suggest that the children make cards to include with the miters and give the miters to the pastor and to members of the parish and school staff—the people who are leaders and helpers in your parish. Make a list of recipients so that there is one for each child. As a group, write a blessing for Saint Nicholas Day. For example: May the blessings of service and generosity that were the signs of Saint Nicholas’s love of God be yours today. Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

Have each child copy the prayer of blessing onto a card and attach it to the candy cane with yarn or ribbon. If possible, have the children place the miters onto desks or into mailboxes without being noticed.

  • Grades 7-8: Share with Visions students the fact that Saint Nicholas preferred to help others anonymously. He was not interested in receiving credit or being rewarded for his good deeds. Yet the people of his time recognized his goodness and generosity and he was declared a saint.

Explain to Visions students that they will do a project to recognize and affirm the good they see in one another. For this project, provide 9” X 12” envelopes, gold construction paper or glossy gold cardstock, pencils, scissors, and foil-wrapped chocolate coins.

Instruct the students to cut gold “coins”—at least one for each of their classmates—out of construction paper or glossy gold cardstock. Write each student’s name on a 9” X 12” envelope and display the envelopes in an accessible place in your gathering space.

Emphasize that treating others with care, respect, and kindness is a good way for each of us to prepare for Christmas. Then ask the young people to observe how their classmates treat others in the coming days and weeks. When students see a classmate acting with kindness and generosity, they should write the classmate’s name on one side of a coin, describe the kind or generous action on the other side of the coin, and put the coin into the classmate’s envelope without being seen. At the last meeting before Christmas break, give each student his or her envelope and let the students discover the goodness others have seen in them. Be sure to fill out some coins yourself and to slip some foil-wrapped chocolate coins into each envelope as a special treat.

For more ideas for the feast of Saint Nicholas, see these from Catholic Digest.

Image credit: malamalama/

One Response to “Saints and Feasts of the Season: Saint Nicholas of Myra (4th Century)”

  1. constance says:

    Wonderful St. Nick lessons! Thank You! I ll pass on to my 3rd graders!

Leave a Coment to constance



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