There’s no doubt that the closer Christmas gets, the more excited your toddler or preschooler gets. The magic of Santa coming with presents can’t be matched at this age. If you want to keep your child in the spirit but feel it’s important to introduce the ancient meaning of Christmas, a rendition of the story of Saint Nick is fun for little ones, but gives them a sense of the reason why people celebrate Christmas with presents in a stocking.
In essence, Santa and Saint Nick are the same person, though your little one might look at you with disdain if you call his beloved Santa by another name. Saint Nick, often called the patron saint of children, was a rich man in ancient times. He was born in 280 A.D. in Asia Minor. Under cover of darkness, he would leave money and gifts for poor children, but didn’t like to be seen.
He sometimes left gold in people’s socks as they hung out to dry. Saint Nicholas Day is December 6th, and over time, he’s come to be associated with the Christmas season.
Tips For Telling It
Toddlers and preschoolers don’t like long, drawn-out stories. His eyes might start glazing over if you trot out all the specifics about when and where Saint Nick was born. Instead, keep it simple. Tell him that Saint Nick shared his money with poor people a long time ago and that now we call him Santa and he brings presents to everyone. You might want to throw in the tidbit about having to behave, though.
Toys are a powerful motivator for good behavior, which is especially helpful during the holidays when you’re trying to get everything done with a tired and cranky child.
Little kids love to do hands-on projects, so coming up a with a couple of fun ones to go along with the story of Saint Nick helps your toddler or preschooler get into the topic and understand the tale. Keep it age-appropriate or you’re probably going to be sitting at the table finishing long after your little one has moved on to something else. Use paper bags or felt to make a simple Saint Nick puppet, with a face and a white beard. Add a red coat and hat and let your child act out his favorite holiday story himself.
Since jolly old Saint Nick likes to fill stockings with gifts, make a simple one with your child. Cut out two stockings out of felt and sew them, right sides together, along the sides and bottom. Turn the stocking right side out and let your toddler or preschooler decorate it with fabric paint or use fabric glue to adhere felt shapes to it.
Celebrating Saint Nick
Since Saint Nick Day comes a couple of weeks before Christmas, make a bigger impact on your child by having a celebration on December 6th. This lets your toddler or preschooler put his knowledge on display by sharing what he’s learned with family and friends. Serve snacks that were popular during his life or originate from the area where he was born and lived. Hot chocolate and punch are kid-friendly drinks if you’re brave enough to risk the mess.
Offer cream cheese coffee cake, also called Saint Nicholas surprise bread purses, according to the Saint Nicholas Center website. Hazelnut macaroons, spice cookies, custard pudding and fruit cake are other tasty foods that are traditional to the origins of Saint Nicholas Day.