“Dad, nobody at school knows what I’m talking about.  Why do we do St. Nicholas’ Day?”

This question came, at one point or another, from each of our kids.

In Germany on December 6th every year, boys and girls wake up to find their shoes or stockings filled with little treats and presents.  This fun and gentle holiday observes the feast day for St. Nicholas, patron saint of children and sailors, and the guy we know as Santa Claus.

Why do we celebrate it?  Are we a new cult, or observing our German heritage (there’s not much of that in my family, but when we dig for it we find some)?  No, it has to do with my kids’ grandpa.

My wife’s father served in the US military for over 20 years.  He was stationed a couple times in Germany with his own children growing up.  My wife went to elementary school and spoke German, she at doner kebabs in Berlin, and tells stories about the train rides she took as a little girl all around Europe exploring castles and churches.  So we celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day as a fun way to remember this part of my wife’s childhood.

Also, in a roundabout way we’re honoring freedom.  My father-in-law and thousands of other men and women like him volunteer themselves to keep our rights safe.  Because of their willingness to sacrifice, we – and our friends and neighbors – enjoy a vast array of freedoms.  We live in a country where, at its best, friends and neighbors can speak their minds and share their faith, and we enjoy the benefits of these wonderful friendships.  So we also celebrate St. Nicholas day to remember veterans – those of today, and those who risked their lives and sanity freeing the world from terrible dictators 70 years ago.  And I get to share some of that when my daughters ask me the question, “Why do we do St. Nicholas’ Day?”

Sometimes a lot goes in to a fun and gentle holiday.