There really was a St. Nicholas (A.D. 300s). He was the Greek Bishop of Myra who was famous for his generosity. He is the patron saint of travelers, sailors, bakers, merchants and especially children.
In that capacity his feast day of Dec. 6 is celebrated, particularly in Europe. Some American families also observe the tradition of that day: children setting out their shoes on the evening of Dec. 5 to awaken in the morning to find that the good saint has filled them with candy, coins and small toys. The name Santa Claus comes from Sinterklaas, the Dutch name for St. Nicholas. Santa’s red attire can also be traced to this bishop’s traditional robe.
If you are playing Santa Claus for the children in your life this holiday season, consider gifting them with some classic children’s books. Grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles can introduce their young relatives to favorite characters such as Amelia Bedelia, Curious George, Ramona Quimby, Max and the Wild Things, Charlotte the Spider, The Cat in the Hat, Corduroy, Harriet the Spy, Madeline, Matilda, Miss Nelson, Olivia, Pippi Longstocking, Ferdinand, Rumpelstiltskin and Winnie the Pooh. Even preschoolers will enjoy such titles as “Go, Dog, Go” by P. D. Eastman, Margaret Wise Brown’s “Good Night Moon,” “Frog and Toad are Friends” by Arnold Lobel, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle’s “Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
Older readers will enjoy “Because of Winn Dixie” by DiCamillo, “The Borrowers” by Norton, “Holes” by Sacher, “The Birchbark House” by Erdrich, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by Lewis, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” by Atwater, “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Juster, “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Blume, and Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”
All of the above tiles appear on the New York Public Library’s list of “100 Great Children’s Books.” Books in traditional print don’t require batteries or recharging, although many of these classic titles are also available in eBook or audio book formats. Enjoy the holidays with your family and share one of your favorite books with the children in your life. And don’t forget to recite the poem that Clement Moore composed for his own children in 1822: “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”