Each year we hang our stockings in hopes that Saint Nicholas will come fill them on the eve of his feast day, December 6th. This has been a new tradition for my family, as when I was a child the stockings were typically filled on Christmas Eve. It did not sit well with me as a new mother that my children should associate Christmas, the birthday of Christ Jesus, with a Santa Claus of society's creation nor a saintly one.
Before the season begins, we visit Saint Nicholas at a local church and the children are always encouraged by photographers and bystanders to tell him their Christmas wishes. This typically is known to be toys. My children are well aware that we cannot afford much, and I would never want their hopes to be set high that a Saint or stranger would miraculously give them what they desire - concocted all by parents in an effort to get the kids to be good. How awful! My children are well aware that graces are the gifts given by the Lord as merit for doing good every day. We always tell Saint Nicholas "We're so excited for you to come by! Merry Christmas!" and smile for the camera.
This year I have older children, in fact we have 6 children and one on the way. I felt the need to further this discussion and reiterate it with action. We are writing our "Letters to Santa," but they will be "Petitions" that St. Nicholas will read and share with God. They will be about hopes, fears, pleasures, desires, commitments, and prayers for others.
After the children have finished their letters, they will put them in their stockings prior to December 5th. The night before Dec 6 when all are asleep… "St. Nicholas" will collect the letters and leave a special treat in its place. Typically something between $10-20 depending on finances. Sometimes a pair of new slippers. We like adding chocolate coins in his memory, and I will be using this print-out from Catholic Cuisine to glue to each one.
Please share in the comments your thoughts on this approach, if you will include it in your tradition, and other ideas you may have!
I have more posts about our Advent traditions here:
Every year we donate shoebox gifts to Operation Christmas Child
Regarding praying to the saints and praying for others, a good argument for it: