Monday, December 5, 2011

Wonder and Thanks

     Autumn has passed too swiftly. It is my favorite season, though I enjoy them all. Marie commented on the fall colors, that even after the trees have shed their vibrant leaves and the sky has become paler, the shades of gold, brown and grey are tranquil and beautiful.

     Thanksgiving was celebrated for the first time without our oldest daughter. Emily and Jason made their first turkey together in Alabama, sweet newlyweds. Bobby, having experienced American Thanksgiving last year, looked forward to the feast. Alberto, our newest foreign exchange student from Mexico, learned anew our traditions. We have much for which to be thankful.

     The migratory flocks of geese have settled on our pond, honking and flapping, splash-running to take-off at the sight of our dogs, then circling and pitching in to land once again in spectacular fashion. It doesn't get old watching them.

     It seems that winter has already begun. Frost on the ground and ice patches on the road. Tonight the children will put out their shoes in the centuries-old tradition of St. Nicholas' Feast Day. My Austro-Hungarian grandparents also kept this tradition when my mother was a child. St. Nicholas' Feast Day is December 6th. The children will awaken to some chocolate gold coins and a few little gifts, and we'll celebrate the generosity of St. Nicholas of Myra.

     St. Nicholas was born in the third century to a wealthy family in what was then Greece, now Turkey. He was orphaned in childhood and dedicated his life and inheritance to helping the unfortunate. Upon hearing about the daughters of  a local poor man who were to be seized and sold into prostitution to pay a debt, St. Nicholas tossed three bags of gold down the man's chimney in the dark of night. The man was able to pay his debt and his daughters were saved. St. Nicholas was said to be present at the Council of Nicea in 325 and fought against the Arian Heresy. He is remembered for his love of children and those in need.

     As a child I grew up with the more modern tradition of Santa Claus. We watched "Miracle on 34th Street," and "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and loved them. We also went to church and celebrated the birth of God Incarnate, the baby Jesus.  My Dad dressed up as Santa when I was five and I steadfastly clung to the belief until almost ten years old. I was upset when I learned that Santa Claus was not real, that he did not visit the whole world overnight, slide down our chimney and leave presents. I remember the disillusionment.

     As an adult, I determined that there must be a way to incorporate both traditions, focusing on the true meaning of Christmas.  So we see Santa at the mall, we read stories about the North Pole and Rudolf, and we watch Charlie Brown's friends surprise him each year with his transformed Christmas tree. We go to church throughout the season. We talk about Santa as a legend borne from the real St. Nicholas, the great man of God who devoted his life to Jesus Christ. Who strove to follow Jesus' example of love and self-sacrifice.

God bless us all this Christmas, especially those who are suffering and in need. Let us remember all that we can be truly thankful for, and all that we can do to make a difference in our world.


The Abbey Farm