Saint Nicholas or Nikolaos of Myra,

ooh, he’s totally giving you the naughty face!

W

e’ve been going to the same church for five years now and about a week or so into the Advent season—that’s, like, seven pieces of chocolate if your keeping track of time by way of one of those seasonal paper calendars with candy hiding behind the pop-open windows—congregants are invited to gather together for food and a meet and greet with these two saints, Nicholas and Lucia, gone coming on 1,800 years now.

I’m still relatively new to this tradition and until this morning I thought that marking Nick and Lucy’s work on behalf of the poor and commitment to their faith was observed similarly across the denomination, but no. It was my friend Jane’s idea to squeeze their individual feast days (December 6 and 13, respectively) together. She figured that connecting the lesser-known Lucy to the ubiquitous Nicholas gives him back some degree of his humanity, while Nicholas’ marquee value and name-recognition elevates Lucy of the Lights in the understanding of the children assembled to hear their stories.

There was singing and candy but best of all were the saints themselves, he in a pointy hat and paste beard, she wreathed in a paper crown studded with a handful of those battery-powered candles telling their own stories. (And a special commendation to you, Lucy, for omitting the gruesome details of your martyrdom! I can see how telling that story might be tempting, even when a quarter of your audience is in kindergarten.) Here’s how we served the least of these, they told the children, and you can, too.

The saints departed and then my friend set everyone loose to eat their breakfasts. Before she did, though, she asked the children how much were they asked to emulate these souls—a little or a lot? Could they show her?

The children gathered on the floor spread their arms wide. This much, they said with their bodies, their fingers stretching as far as they could make them away from their tiny frames.

So much.