December 6 – St. Nicholas Day

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

Today is the feast day of the one and only Saint Nicholas. In many countries, children leave out their shoes or stockings for St. Nicholas to leave a treat or two depending on their behavior during the previous year. Saint Nicholas lived during the third century in the area of modern day Turkey. He is the predecessor to St. Nick and the modern Santa Claus because of his reputation for giving gold coins and dowry to young girls before their marriages.

There are a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Saint Nicholas. Choose one that meets your needs from the ones below or find more at your local library or bookstore.

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The Legend of Saint Nicholas written by Anselm Grun and illustrated by Giuliano Ferri (2014)

Nicholas was born in Patara. When he grew up he became a priest. Not long afterwards, his parents died leaving him a huge fortune. Nicholas used the money to help the poor. He learned of a man who had three daughters whom he was going to sell into slavery so that he could feed the rest of his family. Nicholas wanted to help them secretly, so one night he dropped a small bag of gold through their window. Now the man had enough money to find a husband for his eldest daughter. Later he did the same for the next two daughters to save them from slavery. Later, when the bishop of Myra died, the bishops from the surrounding towns met to choose a new bishop. It was Nicholas. As bishop, Nicholas became even more popular with the people. He was good and kind, and the people came to him with their worries. Many miracles were attributed to him. After his death, Nicholas was made a saint. People all over the world loved Saint Nicholas for the miracles he preformed. Now on the eve of his feast day, December 6, children in many countries leave their shoes or stockings out and receive gifts in his name.

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The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Charles Santore (2009)

This is a story about fairies who adopt a human baby and name him Claus, meaning ‘little one’ and Neclaus for the fairy Necile who took him in. Claus grew strong, courageous, and innocent. He knew nothing of the world outside the forest. Then when he became a young man, Ak the Master Woodcutter came and took Claus on a journey around the world. Ak took him to a city so he could see humans for himself. Then he told Claus about his adoption and his mortality. But he added, ‘wise humans look for ways to help the world… in this way their good deeds live forever’. When Claus returned to the forest, he announced his plan to leave his mark on the world by dedicating himself to making children happy in honor of Necile who took care of him when he was a baby. With the help of friends, Claus had a house in the Laughing Valley where he lived. He made friends with all the children who lived nearby, but during the first winter he didn’t see the children for many months. During that time he carved toys for them. Eventually he started making dolls and musical instruments. He made himself a sleigh and had two deer who pulled him across the snow to deliver his toys. In order to deliver all his toys before daybreak, the Master Woodcutter allowed Claus to have up to ten deer which he could use on one night only, Christmas Eve. In order to work quickly, Claus left his toys in the children’s stockings which were hung by the fireplaces to dry. Word spread, and soon all the children were leaving their stockings by the chimney. When Claus grew old and his beard grew white, Ak called all the immortals together. They agreed to give Claus a cloak of immortality. And so even today, and for many generations to come, Santa Claus continues his generous work.

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The Real Santa Claus written by Marianna Mayer (2001)

Marianna Mayer uses art primarily from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to illustrate her research into the real man behind the fictional character. She tells the story of Nicholas, son of Epiphanus and Johanna, who grew up to become the Bishop of Myra, who used his wealth to help the needy. His many acts of kindness and generosity are recorded in writing and in artwork. This book gives detailed examples of some of the miracles attributed to Saint Nicholas, including how he was ordained bishop, his discovery of three murdered young boys, his feeding of the poor during a drought with enough grain leftover to plant the following year, and his protection over the sailors of his province. His marble tomb has been moved to Italy where it remains today, but a basilica has been built in Constantinople, near where he lived and died. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, children, brides and unmarried women, pawnbrokers, perfumiers, travelers, and pilgrims.

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The Story of Santa Claus written by Tom Paxton and illustrated by Michael Dooling (1995)

Claus was a woodworker who lived in a cottage in the woods with his dear wife, Eva. He spent his days telling stories to the children who lived nearby. He spent his evenings making toys for the children. Word of his wonderful toys spread and Claus had to work harder and harder to make enough toys for all the children who wanted one. Claus worked so hard, he began falling asleep at his table. One morning when he woke up, he found the toys he had been working on, finished. But something wasn’t quite right. He asked Eva if she had tried to finish the toys for him. She denied it. But the next night, Eva took out the sleigh and left for several hours. The next day, Claus woke up to find his good friends, the elves, in his cottage. They had come to help Claus make his toys. Claus had to teach them how to do it correctly, and they learned quickly. With the help of the elves, Claus had a new problem… now there were too many toys and not enough room in his cottage. Claus decided to move his wife, the elves, and his work to the North Pole where there would be enough room to build a big house and workshop. He promised the children that he would be back to bring them toys very soon. That next Christmas Eve, Claus packed up all the toys they had made that year and went from house to house delivering presents to all the children. And thus he became Santa Claus.

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The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale  written by Aaron Shepard  and illustrated by Wendy Edelson (1995)

Once in a Dutch town in the place now known as Albany, New York lived a baker named Van Amsterdam. He was an honest man and an excellent baker. People came from all around for his breads, pies, cakes, and cookies. And on St. Nicholas Eve, they came for his famous St. Nicholas gingerbread cookies. One year, an old woman came into his shop on St. Nicholas Eve and asked for a dozen St. Nicholas cookies. The baker counted out 12 cookies. The old woman insisted that a dozen was 13 cookies. Van Amsterdam refused to give her one extra cookie and the old woman left his shop saying, ‘fall again, mount again, learn how to count again’. From then on, the baker’s breads, cakes, pies, and cookies were terrible. Soon no one came to his shop anymore. The next year on St. Nicholas Eve, Van Amsterdam made his last batch of St. Nicholas gingerbread cookies. No one came and went to bead. That night he had a dream that he was a boy again. St. Nicholas came and gave toys to all the children. No matter how many toys St. Nicholas gave away, his bag never got any emptier. The next morning, the old woman returned to Van Amsterdam’s shop and requested a dozen St. Nicholas cookies. Van Amsterdam counted out 13 cookies for the old woman. She paid for her cookies and as she left the shop, Van Amsterdam swore he saw the red cloak of St. Nicholas behind her. From that day on, the baker’s dozen was 13 in Van Amsterdam’s bakery. Word spread among the townspeople and Van Amsterdam’s shop became more successful than any other. In many places now, a baker’s dozen is equal to 13.

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