Celebrate with St. Nicholas at the St. Cloud Bookshop

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Nikki Rajala
The Visitor

St. Nicholas was born during the third century in Payara, on the southern coast of what is now Turkey. While he was young, his wealthy parents died and the devout Nicholas used his entire inheritance to help people in need. 

He later became bishop of Myra, well known for his compassion and generosity to the sick and suffering. 

Mitre or mijter of Sinterklaas. On red background with copy space and vignette. Part of a dutch santa traditionOne story is that he provided dowries to three daughters in a poor family — preventing them from being sold into slavery. He is said to have tossed three bags of gold through an open window, which landed on their shoes left next to the fire to dry. 

This became the custom of children putting out their shoes or stockings and receiving gifts. Three gold balls are one of the symbols of St. Nicholas. 

The feast of St. Nicholas is normally celebrated on Dec. 6, but this year that day falls on Sunday, a Solemnity of the Lord. In most instances, when a feast day falls on a Sunday, the Sunday liturgy supersedes the feast or memorial. 

Liturgically, the church doesn’t celebrate the Mass of St. Nicholas (or the saint), but he is still remembered and devotional practices surrounding him can still be observed. For example, putting one’s shoes outside their door, which can be filled with goodies. 

Since he’s the patron of many folks, there could be special prayers for these groups (i.e. bakers, brewers, brides, children, Greece, grooms, merchants, Russia, sailors, travelers).

23A gamadesPete Gamades, whose family has managed and/or owned the St. Cloud Bookshop since 1976, answered questions about St. Nicholas.

Q: How will the St. Cloud Bookshop celebrate St. Nicholas Day?

A: We’ll have special free family activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. I’ll be in costume as St. Nicholas and parents can bring cameras to take photos of their children with St. Nicholas. We’re giving away free St. Nicholas coloring books — in English and Spanish — to the first 125 children attending. We’re offering cider and cookies to all who visit the store. There’s no purchase necessary — this is a family event.

Q: Why are you focusing on St. Nicholas?

A: St. Nicholas is the original Santa Claus. We want to help spread his story and how St. Nicholas reminds us to give to the poor and those who need our help. It has a great connection to what Pope Francis calls us to do. He calls us, as Christians and Catholics, to use what resources we have to help others. To me, that means helping those in our community — the poor, people in jail, respecting the environment — by giving of ourselves. We want to bring the story of this generous saint to the forefront.

Q: What is the difference between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus?

A: Look for the traditional miter, the tall headdress of bishops on pictures of St. Nicholas. Sometimes he carries a crosier, the curled staff of bishops.

Q: What is your favorite part of the St. Nicholas story?

A: St. Nicholas’ life story has many instances where he helped people who needed help. What I like best is that St. Nicholas helped the poor and gave back as much as he could. That’s pertinent in the way Pope Francis called us to minister to the poor, to play our role in helping the individuals that need our help right now.

Q: What is your personal connection with celebrating St. Nicholas? 

A: As kids I remember putting our shoes out at night and, in the morning, we’d receive an orange and a little bit of candy in them. My aunt, Franciscan Sister Alexander Gamades, dressed up as St. Nicholas and came to our house. We were full of anticipation and excitement.

Q: What do you hope will come of this St. Nicholas celebration?

A: I hope it’s the beginning of a long tradition for families to come and celebrate St. Nicholas day at our store. We want families to share the anticipation and excitement of this feast day. Maybe they will put out their shoes and also find ways to share with others in need.