Today's "Things to Think About" and "Something Fun for Advent" are combined. Legends of that mysterious gift-giver, St. Nicholas, abound, and I encourage you to share with your children, grandchildren, family and friends. The video here is actually a Ukrainian invitation to a feast in honor of St. Nicholas at the local monastery.
As a child, my parents would take my brother and I to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg. There would be crafts and foods, ornaments and entertainers, chestnuts actually being roasted over open fires, Gluhwein (a hot, spiced wine I've never seen duplicated) and children everywhere. The children would be waiting for the Bishop of Nuremberg to make his walk on St. Nicholas Day, as he had a huge staff with a shepherd's crook at the top, and would of course be all decked out in his official finery. As he passed, he would lower the staff in blessing to the crowds, and the top of it would open to spill candies, nuts and fruits for the children to gather. It was a family celebration and outing, focusing not only on the gift-giving, but on the church as well.
Because of the rampant commercialization of "Christmas", so many have lost the concept that we are getting ready for the birth of the Christ, the Son of God, and images of Santa Claus fill up the time and airwaves instead. I admit to enjoying the separation of St. Nicholas' arrival tomorrow and the birthday of Jesus later in the month. For one, it gives us two separate holidays in one month! And far more importantly, it puts the importance of Christmas back where it belongs.
Germans do still celebrate Christmas with gifts exchanged, but the gifts are an acknowledgment that we all have that spark of Christ within each of us, and we celebrate the birthday of a baby so long ago, who had such a huge impact on the world.