Kind Saint Nicholas


Yesterday was the feast of Saint Nicholas and we marked the holiday in our usual small ways. The boys polished their shoes and put them out near our door. We also left out some hay for the saint’s donkey to eat. (Lucas left a note for Nicholas, asking for oranges, a taser gun, and a katana; the kid can dream big!)

Polishing boots for St. Nicholas Day Eve of St. Nicholas Day


I updated our nature table a bit, with Saint Nicholas surrounded by some little children. Together we read Christine Natale’s Saint Nicholas stories. My favorites are the ones when Nicholas is a boy because he shows generosity in ways that children can—by sharing what he has, by cheering people and giving comfort to those who are sad, and by being kind and generous to those who are different, disadvantaged, or disabled.

In the morning, we all found some treats and treasures in our shoes. Nicholas must have come in the night! Lucas and Asher got oranges, fancy chocolates with honey caramel inside, a bag full of magnetic hematite stones (gold for Lucas and rainbow iridescent for Asher), and they each got a beautiful heart-shaped agate worry stone. (We parents also received worry stones, too, and I think we need them more than the boys do. They are delightful for hands to find in pockets.) Simple. Sweet. My kids think it’s out of this world to be allowed a chocolate first thing in the morning!

Saint Nicholas also visited all the children at school. He and Rupert brought oranges, cookies, and crystals to Asher’s Kindergarten class, and he brought chocolates and pretty stones to Lucas’s fifth-grade class. I wish I had a photo, but I wasn’t there.

My kids chose some toys they no longer want to keep and we are donating them to others. We have a pile of donations outside at our curb, just waiting for the United Cerebral Palsy donation van to come and pick them up. It always feels good to give away things that no longer serve us to those who need them more than we do.

I think Saint Nicholas must be pleased with us. I am.

Growth and Change


I try not to get too sentimental about my children growing up. They grow. They are made to. They strive and learn and change and discover and grow every day, with or without my consent. And I approve. Most of the time I am too busy being astounded and amazed by their leaps of intelligence, judgement, compassion, and understanding, and feats of strength and skill to be the least bit sad about their not being babies anymore.

These are pants and shorts and pajamas that my mother and I have for Asher to wear. They were sewn for him and made with love (and in my case, with mistakes and a fair amount of learning frustration). They are all too small for Asher now, and I have sent them on their merry way to another sweet boy (and his baby sister) who may get some further use out of them. They are not the first set of handmades to be passed along, and they certainly won’t be the last. Growth and change are guaranteed.

Nevertheless, I was sentimental enough to take a photo before passing them on. These clothes are loved, soft and colorful, and unique in the world. They are special not only because they once covered my sweet son’s soft skin, but because they were created with loving hands and clever tools and eyes for detail. They are special because they were made first in our hearts before they came to be objects in the world.

May they be useful in the years to come, until they are once again outgrown.


Top 10 Winter Books for Children

The Story of the Snow Children

Here are our Top 10 Winter Books for Children. These are our tried-and-true, beloved “read-it-again” books. Many are inexpensive paperbacks, and you might even find some at your local library or used bookstore. I needn’t rank them, I think. If you do delve into any of these with your children, please comment here and tell me what you think. Also, please tell me if you have other favorite winter books to share!

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic. You probably read it when you were a child. Have you seen this book lately? The simple text beautifully describes a sweet day of snow play and all of the experiences of snowy weather that would appeal to young children. The boy, Peter, pays attention to his footprints, finds a just-right stick, makes snow angels, pretends, and tries to keep a snowball in his pocket. When he comes inside, his mama helps him take off his wet socks. Sound familiar?

Snow by Cynthia Rylant gently reminds us that playing outside among the drifts and snowflakes and then being snug and warm at home are the great gifts of snow. Others are angels, new friends, and the reminder that only memories last forever. “It will say that it is all right to be happy.” I like books that say that we can be happy in simple things, such as tumbling down a hill or taking a walk to see how beautiful the world is. Underneath all this lovely snow, the flowers are sleeping and the soft green gardens wait.


When Winter Comes by Nancy Van Laan answers some very good questions about how birds and animals adapt to winter’s cold temperatures. Chances are good that your children have asked these exact questions of you at some time. The language is lyrical and rhyming. A mommy, daddy, and child explore nature together to find out what happens “when winter comes and the cold winds blow.” I feel this book models how you can enjoy nature outdoors even when it’s cold and dark in winter.

This one we don’t own, but we are greatly enjoying our library copy. Animals in Winter, by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder, explains in simple language what the birds, butterflies, bats, woodchuck, pikas, squirrels, mice, deer, rabbits, and foxes do to survive the cold season of winter. The authors deftly explain the concepts of migration, hibernation, food storage, foraging, and hunting as survival techniques. The book also tells you how you can help birds find enough food in winter by building bird feeders and keeping them supplied with seeds, nuts, and fruits.

Another science-oriented library book that nevertheless is filled with wonder at the beauty inherent in snow crystals is The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson, Ph.D. There are several amazing snow crystal photography books on the market, but this one does the best job of explaining to children how snow crystals form. The macro photography is beautiful and your child may gasp with delight upon seeing the intricate shapes that snow crystals form in nature. These photos make my heart soar.

The Story of Snow

The Tomten is a perennial favorite. We have a beat-up old paperback copy that we read again and again. This book was adapted by Astrid Lindgren from a poem by Viktor Rydberg and has a delightfully slow pace. Not much happens, and what does happens in a repetitious and comforting way, just the kind of simple rhythm that young children respond to so well. A Tomten takes care of the animals of the farm during the dead of night, when everyone is sleeping and no one can see him. No one has ever seen him, but they know he is there. He whispers to the cows in tomten language, “Winters come and winters go, Summers come and summers go, Soon you can graze in the fields.” He has a similarly reassuring message for the horses, the sheep, and the chickens. He is a special friend of the dog. He wishes the children were awake so he could talk to them, too, in tomten language that they can understand, but of course children sleep through the night.

The Tomten

Sybille von Olfers is a favorite among Waldorf-oriented families for good reasons. The Snow Children is the story of Poppy, who goes to play outside when her mother is running an errand away from home. She meets the snow children, who happily take her to visit the Snow Queen. She travels through the snowy woods to the Queen’s ice castle on a sledge pulled by Swirly-Wind. She meets the Snow Queen and the Princess, and gets to join in her birthday celebration featuring white chocolate and sweet ice-cold tea. After a fine time, Poppy is ready to return home to her mother, and eagerly tells her all about her adventures.

The Story of the Snow Children

Winter Waits by Lynn Plourde is part of her series of seasonal books, all of which are illustrated by Greg Couch. In this story, Winter is personified as a rambunctious little boy who tries to get his dad, Father Time, to play with him. Unfortunately, Dad is working. While he waits, Winter paints the grass with frost and makes the world sparkle with white. Dad asks him to be patient a bit more. In the meantime, Winter carves ice sculptures out of mountain waterfalls. He wants to show Father Time his creation, but the father’s work still isn’t done. So the boy cuts intricate snowflakes and sprinkles them about. Finally, when presented with the miracle gift of a snowflake, Father says, “Thank you, my son, you fill me with pride.” And then they play, play, play together in that special way that fathers and sons do. This story captures that excruciating waiting that so often accompanies childhood, the exuberance that comes when the wait is finally over, and the special bond between fathers and sons.

Winter Waits

Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root is a magical tale about an old woman who keeps a flock of geese. All through the spring and summer, Grandmother Winter carefully gathers the goose feathers that the birds drop. In the autumn, she begins to sew a quilt and fills it with feathers. Grandmother shakes out her finished quilt and causes the snowflakes to begin to fall. Children catch the flakes on their tongues and grown-ups stack the firewood high, and the animals get ready to slumber under the mud of the pond or in their cozy dens. She climbs into bed under her new quilt—fine as a blanket of snow—to stay warm through the winter, and her geese tuck their heads under their wings to wait for spring. I adore the artwork by Beth Krommes.

Grandmother Winter

Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr are three Swedish boys in a series of books by Maj Lindman. Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the The Yellow Sled is a gentle story that my sons love. The brothers see a fancy yellow sled in a shop window and ask their mother if they can earn the money to buy the sled, which they can all ride at the same time. Mother agrees and gives them special chores to do to earn the money. The boys go about their tasks cheerfully—washing dishes, helping with the cooking, doing laundry and the shopping, and scrubbing and dusting the house—just as you want your own children to do. They even bring Mother tea, flowers, and cake on her birthday. After two weeks, Mother agrees to take them to the shop to buy the sled. When they arrive there, they see a little boy who also dearly desires to have the yellow sled, but whose family cannot afford it. The boys agree to give the yellow sled they have earned to the less fortunate boy, and they make him and his siblings so happy in doing so. Mother is pleased with their generosity and agrees to let Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr earn another yellow sled for themselves. I love the example these brothers set with their helpfulness and generosity.

Good Saint Nicholas

We are celebrating the Feast of Saint Nicholas in small ways. I’m making a honey cake to eat after dinner tonight and yesterday, on the eve of St. Nicholas’s birthday, the children polished their boots and set them out to see if perhaps some treats might appear there. Indeed, Lucas and Asher did receive some traditional Saint Nicholas goodies this morning: oranges, chocolates, and walnuts.

This morning Daddy said, “Go look in your boots.” Asher was incredulous. “Go look in my boots?!” The poor kid teared up when he saw the orange in his red rain boots. He’s not a big fan of oranges. But when he found the chocolate he cheered right up again and gobbled some down. (Mmmm … chocolate at 7:04 a.m.!) Lucas opted to have his orange in his lunch box today.

I made this needle-felted Saint Nicholas to display for the holiday. He’s presently on our kitchen table with Sturdylegs the Donkey.

Needle-Felted Saint Nicholas

Kind old man, St. Nicholas dear,
Come to our house this year.
Here’s some straw and here’s some hay
For your little donkey gray.

Pray put something in my shoe,
I’ve been good the whole year through,
Kind old man, St. Nicholas dear,
Come to our house this year.

(from Germany, and the Winter book from Wynstones Press)

We are also reading Christine Natale’s St. Nicholas stories, which are found on this Saint Nicholas Center website along with lots and lots of Saint Nicholas resources and recipes. I admit I’m editing the stories a bit to make them suit our family. I really do like the examples of Nicholas doing good deeds as a boy; I think Natale has done a great job of relating the concept of generosity in a way that children can easily understand.

Second Grade Saints: Saint Nicholas
Lucas’s Saint Nicholas drawing from last year in second grade.

It is said that Saint Nicholas is the children’s saint because he rewards their goodness (and his buddy, Rupert/Krampus/Black Peter punishes bad children who don’t learn their lessons or obey their parents). Celebrating Nicholas’s giving spirit is good preparation for Christmas, which is why they call him the Advent saint. This celebration wasn’t part of Ian’s or my childhood (funny, considering our Austrian roots), so we are feeling our way into it and enjoying the parts we want.

There is a beautiful children’s picture book by Demi, The Legend of Saint Nicholas, published in 2003. Demi’s marvelous, gilded illustrations present Nicholas’s life and many miracles, and explain how he came to be the patron saint of so many groups. (There is one story I’m not at all fond of, however. I would recommend that parents read this book first, and then decide whether to present it to their children.)

Page from Demi's The Legend of Saint Nicholas

Do you celebrate this day? How do you celebrate?

  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2018 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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