If you’re concerned about Keeping Christ in Christmas, a good way to get started on the right path in our home is to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. It’s observed on Dec. 6 in Western Christian countries and on Dec. 19 in Eastern Christian countries.

St. Nicholas, of course, is the inspiration for our modern Santa Claus. But he was also a bishop who was known for his generosity in looking out for the poor.

Observing his feast day is easy. In the U.S., parents generally have their children leave their shoes outside their bedroom doors or hang their Christmas stockings (a great activity to combine with putting out your Christmas crèche). Then, with a little cooperation of parents, children find candy and sometimes small gifts from St. Nick in their shoes or stockings. (For an overview of how his day is observed in other countries, check out this Wikipedia listing.)

The key to connecting a shoe or stocking full of candy to Christ and Christmas is found in the conversations parents have with their children about the legend of St. Nick and the importance of being loving and generous in our own lives – especially as we prepare to receive our Savior on Christmas Day.

And while you’re at it, if you’re not already using an Advent calendar, start as soon as possible. Kids won’t care if you have to catch up a week or so at the start, and after that they’ll excitedly count down the days until Christmas. Most of the calendars offer great reminders about the reason for the season.

Use of an Advent calendar also helps connect children to the church’s liturgical calendar – and to better understand what is going on at Mass during the Advent season.