the next name day feast for our family is December 6th, St Nicolas day. this just may be my favorite feast all year! St Nicolas Day was my introduction to celebrating the church year.
while i lived in San Diego i attended St Paul’s. one week the Sunday school speaker was Gertrud Mueller Nelson. she was there to tell us stories of St Nicolas. but she didn’t come empty handed. she had made gingerbread cookies for us–in the shape of the bishop himself and tied with red ribbon. and as she handed out the cookies she told us stories in hushed, excited tones. stories of children rescued and gifts bestowed. she told of lighting candles on the Advent wreath each week, of not decorating the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve. she told of life-giving ways of approaching the mystery of God with us.
i was enraptured. her house sounded like a blessed place to grow up. i read her book called To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration. the book tells all the same stories from St Nicolas Day as well as celebrations from the rest of the church year and major saint days. it even has the recipe for the gingerbread cookies!
our family does not follow all of her suggestions; we get our tree on December 6th! but her tone and focus sustain me. the idea that our physical world–what we eat and wear and make–can connect us to and be a reflection of the spiritual world is a powerful pattern to follow.