December 6 is the Day of St. Nicholas. The origin of America’s Santa Clause can be found in St. Nick who had a reputation for, among other things, leaving money for others in their shoes. So every year, on December 6, Germans mimic the Nikolaus by leaving candy and gifts in each other’s shoes. The way I am seeing it today, they take on aspects of the Saint. It is an incredibly cold and snowy day. Kind of pretty, but more frustrating, as a lot of the city has shut down because of the 20-30 centimeters of snow we received over the weekend. The parts of the city that are shut down include the buses that run between where I live and where I go for my German language course. The parts of the city that are NOT shut down? Where I go for my German language course. It has been an exhausting day of walking in snow and shuffling along the ice.
It’s days like today when you remember who you are: Human. Extremely limited and finite. Any illusions you have of power and privilege are based on an intricate system of services, networks, and tools; all of which, can, and sometimes do, go away. The Winter doesn’t care that I am a busy person with places to be, anymore than the Wuppertal bus system can defy the laws of physics to help me continue BEING a busy person with places to be. On an icy, snowy, day I am a creature at the mercy of snow and ice. Nothing more, but, thankfully, nothing less. It is a day like today, when nothing really goes right, when you appreciate how fragile and how interdependent your way of life is. And it is easy to feel forgotten on a day like that, easy to feel desperate and alone.
But, then you come home and find your door decorated with candy and gifts. You come home and you see that a bunch of people have taken on aspects of a Saint, and they have taken the time to visit you. And you remember, there is no place on this earth I can go where I will be alone. There’s too many saints in the world, and I am too lucky and too connected. There are those who are lost in the world. There are those who are alone and isolated, and there are those whose lives literally come to an abrupt end on cold and icy days like this one. Nikolaus of Myra was named a saint for his extraordinary generosity nearly 2,000 years ago. Makes you wonder, with the technology and information at our disposal, what miracles we could be capable of working today. If enough of us took on aspects of the Saint, perhaps someone would be celebrating in our names in 2,000 years.
Really the ice and snow didn’t bother me that much today, because the day BEGAN with my Nikolaus present, which I did find nestled between my shoes. A German edition of Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. St. Nick brought Christmas to my feet. St. Nick found me and brought me one of my favorite things in the world, but with a German twist. St. Nick, or an amazing woman named Inka who continues–for reasons unknown–to be a light in my life on my darkest days. One of the two. Can’t be sure.
I am blessed, and you are blessed, and may we find ways of taking on Saint-like personality traits in the coming days and bless those around us. Froehliche Nikolaustag, Charlie Brown! I mean….You!