On Saturday, Dec. 6, Anchorage children will gather at St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church with hopes of spotting Saint Nicholas, the third century bishop of Myra and the inspiration behind much of the Christmas gift-giving tradition.
The public is welcome to join in as the parish celebrates its patron saint with a Divine Liturgy followed by singing, dancing, gift exchanges, skits and a potluck feast.
The feast day will begin with liturgy at 5 p.m. Following the liturgy, the festivities will begin. Saint Nicholas is expected to come and accept gifts from the children, listen to their Christmas wishes and give them a small treat.
Children are asked to bring gifts of warm clothes for Catholic Social Services’ Clare House — an outreach that serves homeless mothers and children.
Christians around the world celebrate Saint Nicholas on Dec. 6. He was a bishop of the early church known for generosity and love of children. Born in Lycia in Asia Minor around the late third or fourth century, Saint Nicholas is said to have made a pilgrimage to Palestine and Egypt in order to study the ways of the Desert Fathers. On returning some years later he was almost immediately ordained bishop of Myra, on the coast of modern day Turkey.
The bishop was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution and only released when Constantine the Great came to power and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
One of the most famous stories of the generosity of Saint Nicholas says that he secretly threw bags of gold through an open window in the house of a poor man to serve as dowry for the man’s daughters, who otherwise would have been sold into slavery.
The gold is said to have landed in the family’s shoes, which were drying near the fire. This is why children leave their shoes out by the door, or hang their stockings by the fireplace in the hopes of receiving a gift on the eve of his feast.
Saint Nicholas is associated with Christmas because of the tradition that he had of giving secret gifts to children.
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children and sailors. His intercession is sought by the shipwrecked, by those in difficult economic circumstances, and for those affected by fires.
To learn more about the upcoming feast day celebration in Anchorage go online to ak-byz-cath.org or call St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church at (907) 277-6731.