Granted, my early memories are of the excitement going to bed the night before, anticipating what small gift would be found in the morning, whether in my shoe or an unexpected stocking with my name on it found somewhere in the house. I also remember visiting my grandparents home, and there would be a knock on the window or door, a jingle of a bell, and no one to be found as its source. Such visits were then always reinforced by the elders in the room that St. Nick was watching to make sure we were being good!
Of course, having a sister named Nicolette (whose birthday is the following day) added no small amount of excitement as she always makes sure (even to this day!) we help her remember and celebrate, both her feast day and her birthday!
It is also not lost upon me that my mother is the one who devoted so much love and attention in making this day and so many others throughout the year, memorable in so many ways.
Now, as an adult, and a brother Bishop to this great Saint, I have a more mature understanding of why he is so beloved.
First, St. Nicholas was formed quite well in the faith by his own parents, as well as by his uncle, also a bishop, who ordained him a priest. Mostly, St. Nicholas is remembered for his great faith. He taught the faith well and effectively, defending it against one of the great heresies of his time, Arianism.
The other characteristic for which he is most warmly revered flows from his faith, and that is his great love. As a priest and later as a bishop, he performed many concrete acts of charity.
Perhaps one of the most well known is the generosity he showed to a man and his three daughters. This man fell into poverty, and was going to hand over his daughters to prostitution. Hearing this, Nicholas threw a bag of gold in an open window of the home, thus providing a dowry for the eldest daughter, allowing her to take a husband. He did the same over time for the other two girls.
Today, let us call to mind this Saint of strong faith and generous heart. Let us seek his intercession that we too may grow in our faith in Christ so much so that our own love for the Lord will flow into concrete actions of love for our neighbors!
Peace, and Happy Feast of St. Nicholas.