Dear Santa Claus,
Any suggestions on how to celebrate St. Nick’s day? We had a small family gathering but have decided to broaden it out to an annual celebration for friends and more. What do you guys do?
I’m honored to be so honored. I love a good party.
This year Katie and I are not doing a St. Nicholas Eve party, however. We’ve had a very busy November, and served five groups over 25. With all of our married children coming in over the holidays, we decided to take a couple of weeks off in early December.
But from our several years of St. Nicholas Eve celebrations, I can offer these suggestions:
Keep the menu simple. We have often done something as simple as soup, and encouraged our guests to bring desserts and hors d’oeuvres. We set tables up around the house to encourage grazing.
Create centers of interest. We usually have crafts for the children in one room, movies about Santa in one room and a card table with a large puzzle. (As it turns out, adults like to do crafts too, but it’s good to have someone over seeing this.) This approach has allowed us to host as many as 140 guests in one evening.
Put on a show. We usually recruit players for a skit to commemorate the occasion. This performance is often the high point of the evening. It’s most fun when you cast against type. (You can find lots of craft and skit ideas at the St. Nicholas Center.) Our favorite is a humorous melodrama of the dowry story by Paul Cosby.
Demystify the man. We put small gifts in people’s shoes, lay Santa hats around the house, set some Santa books on an end table. But the story we try to tell, ultimately, is that Nicholas was a real person, remembered for his generosity and associated with unexpected delight.
For us, St. Nicholas Eve is a way to move the emphasis on Santa from Christmas to the beginning of the month, giving Christ himself the focus he deserves. In fact, we put most of our Santa themed decorations away after St. Nicholas Eve. I think Nicholas would have preferred it that way.
I usually take some time on St. Nicholas Eve to talk about the historical character. At other times I’ve simply written about him in a brief note that welcomes our guests and explains why we celebrate St. Nicholas Eve. His legacy of generosity is important this time of year, as we learn to think about the gifts we give rather than the ones we receive.
As one who has spent some time “becoming Santa,” I enjoy having made memories for children and other believers. We welcome your family into this tradition and encourage others to join the fun.
And just because we are not having a St. Nicholas Eve party this year, doesn’t mean we won’t come to one.
So keep your chimney open. And, well, you know… be nice.
Recommended reading: The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas