My husband and I can each stake our claim in half our heritage from only one country – his being Poland, mine being the Netherlands. Our poor children on the other hand are so mixed they’re fully, 100% Canadian :0) However, the rich history and traditions don’t have to disappear just because they don’t have that direct bloodline. Rather, I think it is really important and dare I say extremely fun to edu-ma-cate our children on where their ancestors came from and how they celebrate Christmas.
Last year I haphazardly tried to delve into my Dutch heritage and participate in Sinterklaas Day on December 6th – it began and ended with us watching the Veggie Tales Saint Nicholas – and that was all. Probably perfect for the then 6, 4 and 2 year old. This year though I wanted to step it up a notch, and since I knew it was December 6 a couple of days before it came, I had some time to prepare!
Currclick has some FANTASTIC e-book resources available, and I knew this was going to be a great place to find what I needed for a good price. I purchased the St. Nicholas Day lesson plan and Celebrate Christmas with Cookies unit study. I wish we could have gotten our hands on these books in time, but here are some suggestions for picture book read alouds:
I could have gone a lot more indepth using the St. Nicholas Center website, but I wanted my main focus to be less on the history and more on our response (you’ll see why in a bit!).
Traditionally, on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, the children fill their shoes with hay and carrots and place a dish of water out for his horse. If the children are good, they receive candy and goodies in their shoes. If they’re naughty, well, coal will do :0) How do you think my children behaved? ;0)
During our breakfast and bible I read the story and legends of St. Nicholas. I won’t spoil it all for you, but he was a godly man who served the Lord and took care of the poor and others around him. He was generous with everything he had and always took care of a need. So from there we read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke, and drew out of that some thought-provoking questions about caring for others’ needs (even our enemies!) and asking God to open our eyes to the needs of those around us.
Now, I’ve always called myself a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-homeschooler” and this whole event yesterday was nothing more planned than reading what we had read. I am so grateful that the Lord has been working on my heart lately on an issue of ministering to a neighbour in need, and that he laid her heavily on my heart yesterday. In our cookie unit study, we learned the history behind the story of Good King Wenceslas – how he too was generous to those in need, caring for them and ministering to their hearts through the gospel. I take ZERO credit for what happened next – it was all the Lord and my childrens’ idea!
They decided to make some Christmas cards and deliver some goodies to friends and neighbours. I remembered hearing something of RACK – Random Acts of Christmas Kindness – and while the kids were card making I looked it up and found some fun RACK printables from Tracie Stier Johnson we could attach to the gifts. We headed to the grocery store and picked up items for the food bank to drop off at our church, then also made an extra delivery there. You should have seen the faces of my little ones – they were beaming with joy!
Later in the afternoon they RACK’ed a couple of our neighbours, then last night we went across the street to visit Miss L. The kids adore her, she’s a single lady, teacher, and her dog just passed away a couple of months ago – this hit her hard, and it was the first opportunity we REALLY had to see how lonely she really is. We were shocked when she invited us in to see her tree, and blessed to have had the door LITERALLY so wide open for us to just love on her. I’ve been stubbornly digging in my heels when it comes to talking to her, but I’m praying that God will soften my heart and give me a boldness – like my children! – to love her.
To finish the day, we picked up our Christmas tree – FINALLY! I decided to force the hand and we got a fake one, for reals :D I was tired of trees falling over in the middle of the night, stooping down to water it and cleaning up all the needles. And after the thing went up in less than 5 minutes with the lights on, I’m glad we did it!
Homemade speculaas (a delicious Dutch spiced cookie) and egg nog in bellies, little ones fell into bed happy and full.
I am so glad we decided to take December off school, because I remember last year wanting to do things like this, but just being so busy with school and other “essentials”, that we couldn’t, and it frustrated me. Yesterday was more than a blessing to others – it was a blessing to my children and us as parents as we watched them step out, eager to serve and minister to needs around them. All because of a little decision to observe Sinterklaas Day – and a big decision to turn every activity over to the Lord.