Our family has celebrated St. Nicholas day on December 6th since the children were small. My husband and I LOVE Christmas! He loves to decorate the outside of the house (I think Clark Griswold is his inspiration), we have a large Department 56 Village that we've collected over the years, and we especially love Santa Claus. Although I figured out my mother was Santa because they had the same handwriting, the Cobbler was told by a Sunday School teacher that Santa wasn't real when he was in 1st grade.
I always wanted our kids to grow up knowing that Santa Claus was a real person so they weren't in for a shock when they were older. Over the years we have emphasized that Santa Claus or St. Nicholas actually lived and that people do kind things for each other or give gifts at Christmas to emulate him. Every year we read them the same books from the library about Saint Nicholas around this time of year.
Our first pick is usually The Legend of St. Nicholas by Demi. This book is the most religious in tone of our three books we read and focuses on St. Nicholas's sainthood. It covers St. Nicholas's entire life, including his childhood and also some of the more macabre stories like the murder and pickling of the boys who St. Nicholas then resurrects. Red, who is a kid who really digs church, loves this one. She even insists on saying the prayer to St. Nicholas that is printed the end of the book---and we're not even Catholic!
Our next pick is a biography by Ann Tompert simply titled St. Nicholas. This book is in more of a biography format and has some really interesting illustrations that are intended to look like mosaics. Again, this book covers his life in its entirety and discusses his miracles, but takes a much less religious approach and explains his life in a more "here's the facts ma'am" narrative.
Finally, my favorite is Santa Who? by Gail Gibbons. It talks about the origins of Christmas and its legends. The author talks about who St. Nicholas was, how his persona was developed into Sinter Cleas in Holland and then Santa Claus, how December 25 was chosen as the date for Christmas, and how Santa Claus is depicted in America and in other countries.
I so look forward to December 6th. We usually read all three books, but particularly stress the story of the three impoverished maidens, from which the tradition of hanging stockings comes. Then, Red and Tom Thumb put their shoes on the fireplace mantel before they go to bed. We fill their shoes with gold chocolate coins and they get a new Christmas book. This year's book is The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan.
I'm really looking forward to reading it to them! If you want a treasure trove of information about St. Nicholas and different ways to commemorate his day (December 6), go to The St. Nicholas Center website. It's fantastic!