BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

© John Denney 6 December 2006

 

St Nicholas’s Day

 

It’s St Nicholas’ day today.  Not very important in England perhaps, but in most of Europe, children are excitedly waking up to find that St Nicholas has visited them overnight.  In Poland, they say that St Nicholas listens in to the night-time prayers of the children, and if they deserve it, he leaves them an apple or a honey-spice biscuit.

 

In the Netherlands and Belgium, the legend is that St Nicholas – “Sinterklaas” to the Dutch, and “Santa Claus” to us – arrives from Spain, and on the eve of 6th December, he visits every child.  He knocks on the door, and gives them a bag full of presents, if they have been good.  And then just about now, he leaves and goes back to Spain, to start wrapping presents for next year.

 

At Hereford Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral at the Sunday nearest to St Nicholas Day, they elect a boy bishop.  This is a custom going back to the earliest days of the church.  It’s a reminder of St Nicholas the patron saint of children, who, it seems, was only a teenager when he was appointed bishop of Myra in Turkey.  Until 28 December, the boy bishop sits in office, preaches a sermon and leads prayers in the Cathedral.  During this time, the real Bishop gives up his cathedral throne to the boy bishop, as a mark of humility.

 

For that one brief time, the Bishop – and all of us – are reminded that unless we stop being too grown-up, change and become like little trusting children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven[1].  Starting to change this St Nicholas Day, perhaps?

 

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[1] Matthew 18:3