Saint Nicholas Day
The Reform Church in Kingston, NY is fondly called "The Old Dutch Church". Before being taken by the British, it was first settled in the 17th century by the Dutch who called it Wiltwyck. The Old Dutch, the first Church in the town, still continues, has an active congregation, assists civic endeavors, presents a living Nativity every Christmas and hosts wonderful organ concerts and an annual joint Christmas concert of the Mendelssohn Club (male voices) and the Kingston High School choir. I am dipping way into nostalgia here. This last concert is one of the events I have missed since entering the monastery over eight years ago.
When my sons were young we could walk from our home up Main Street to the Old Dutch every December 6th and see St. Nicholas enter town astride his beautiful horse with loyal Black Peter at his side. St. Nicholas carried a huge bag from which he would repeatedly grab a fistful of candy to throw out to the many children crowding around him. Alas this tradition is no more. But it was an exciting occasion for the children, a connection with history and an Advent tradition which went along with the Advent wreath on the kitchen table and the Jesse Tree decorated with homemade biblical symbols and hung on a door. Sometimes I wonder how much of this they remember.
But here in our monastery we maintain our own tradition for this celebration of the great saint, patron of so many (children, sailors, pawn brokers, coopers, young unmarried woman, bankers and even prostitutes). His legends are many. Just google his name and find out. You will also find out how the remains of this Bishop of Smyrna in present day Turkey came to rest in Bari, southern Italy.
Today each of us found a little gift from St. Nicholas in our mail box. Every year, Sr. Moira, supervisor of our kitchen and cuisine, makes a most delicious, huge St. Nicholas cookie painted as the image of the saint. We love it. We are blessed to benefit from Sr. Moira's artistry and generosity which adds so much beauty to the life of our community of contemplative nuns.