Every holiday season, the Missouri Military Academy Parents Committee surprises cadets for St. Nicholas Night on the eve of Dec. 6. Before lights out on Dec. 5, the cadets shine their shoes and leave them for inspection outside their doors. In the morning, they wake to find the shoes filled with Christmas goodies — chocolate Santas, fun flavored candy canes, and the story of the Legend of St. Nicholas, shared below ...
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young.
Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man.
Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
In many places, St. Nicholas is the main gift giver. His feast day, St. Nicholas Day is December 6, which falls early in the Advent season. Some places he arrives in the middle of November and moves about the countryside, visiting schools and homes to find out if children have been good.
Other places he comes in the night and finds carrots and hay for his horse or donkey along with children's wish lists. Small treats are left in shoes or stockings so the children will know he has come.
Where St. Nicholas is prominent, his day, not Christmas, is the primary gift-giving day. Parties may be held on the eve, December 5th, and shoes or stockings left for St. Nicholas to fill during the night. Children will find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies.