Yesterday, for the first time ever, we celebrated a name-day.
Being a convert, celebrations for feast days and name days are very foreign to me. I love the idea, though, and every time one rolls around I smack myself in the forehead for not having prepared in advance. Also being a convert, I never really know when these things are happening until I check facebook and my cradle Catholic friends are saying things like, “today we made Immaculate Heart cupcakes for the feast of the Immaculate Heart!” and I find myself feeling like a terrible wife and mother, and really wanting some cupcakes. So yesterday, when I got on facebook and saw the myriad of St. Nicholas good wishes from friends, I once again started feeling guilty. One of Sienna’s names is Nicole, so it’s a doubly special day. But this year I decided not to throw my hands up and declare, “It’s too late! I’ll do better next year.” Instead, I begged for suggestions on facebook and my friends totally came through. While Sienna was at school I baked cookies, and while the girls were taking naps the Ogre ran down to Trader Joe’s and got bags of chocolate coins for them. He wrote them a letter from St. Nicholas while I did a quick internet search for St. Nicholas treats. This is what the girls woke up to:
The letter the Ogre wrote was so sweet that I want to reprint it here, but first I need to give you a little context.
Kate Wicker posted this link on her blog, and I thought the idea of St. Nicholas telling the kids what they need to work on was a great one. We’ve been having issues with Sienna lashing out verbally (she told a little boy on the playground that she was going to kill him, she called a girl at school a poopyhead) and being very selfish, so I thought that we should give her coins to her and have St. Nicholas ask her to share them with others when she saw them being kind. The Ogre thought that was a little too legalistic and that it would just provide another occasion for her to be bossy (another struggle), so he came up with something different. His phrasing is so beautiful and thoughtful and the letter is so lovely that I want to share it.
My dearest Sienna and Charlotte,
Blessed be your days this joyous holiday season; may they be filled with wonder and peace. I have not failed to notice that you have both been good this year. Sienna, you in particular behave so well in Mass now. I am very proud of you both. To say thank you for being such good, loving, and kind children, I have brought you each a small gift. Part of the gift is the chocolate coins, which I’ve no doubt you will both enjoy. The other part of the gift is the chance to give some gifts and so share with others the joy you feel when you receive a gift. Enjoy the coins, but also enjoy sharing them with others, particularly when you see them being kind to others. I wish you both well, especially you, Sienna, on this our name-day.
When the girls woke up from their nap I read them a story about St. Nicholas and explained that he is a special friend to children. Then we talked about how Sienna shared his name, and was named for him, and how he will always be a special friend to her. We read them the letters and gave them the coins, and while I roasted a turkey and made turkey stock the Ogre took the girls, with their coins and cookies, to our local Trader Joe’s. We have made quite a few friends at this store and try to bring them cookies and baked goods when we can, and Sienna wanted to share their St. Nicholas gifts with the people who work there. The Ogre said she had a great time giving everyone coins and cookies and explaining that since it was St. Nicholas’ feast day, she was giving gifts like he does.
When they got home they helped me make St. Nicholas bread, which was intended to be shaped into figures but we ran out of time, so the Ogre braided it and we let the girls each shape a small loaf while I finished the turkey. Then we sat down and ate roast turkey, buttered vegetables, and delicious St. Nicholas bread.
|I didn’t get a picture of the turkey, but here’s the bread. Didn’t the Ogre do a good job braiding it?
It was a really wonderful day, and I’m so glad I didn’t throw up my hands again this year because I hadn’t prepared something in advance. It was all the more fun because it was something we did on the spur of the moment.
Throughout the day I kept thinking about what a gift from God the Church really is, with her rich history. We have such an abundance of saints and figures to emulate; anyone can look at the thousands of saints and find so many who speak to them personally, whose lives carry a special meaning and who they can hope to imitate in their own actions. We have saints who care for children, saints who care for prisoners, saints who care for the blind, for fathers, for expecting women, for women who can’t have children. There is a saint for everyone and every occasion. What great love our Father must have for us, to give us not only the example of Christ his son and Mary the mother of God, but to also give us examples of men and women throughout the ages who have suffered the wound of mortal sin and yet devoted their lives so fully to God that they have added to the treasury of merit. Men and women and children who, like us, have suffered affliction, pain, desire, weakness, and yet overcome them. It seems like every time I turn around the Church is there, offering me some new and beautiful mystery to ponder. And I am so grateful for it.