EVERETT — He doesn’t ask children what they want for Christmas.
Saint Nicholas instead questioned how they’ve helped others and handled their responsibilities throughout the year. At least, that was the case at the second annual Saint Nicholas fair Dec. 5 at Trinity Episcopal Church.
Organizers from the Everett congregation wanted to provide an alternative to the plethora of commercialized Christmas celebrations. The fair had craft sales to benefit church programs, games, activities, storytimes and of course, a visit from St. Nick.
Two priests took turns donning a red bishop’s cope and miter to bring the spirit of the saint to life.
“He embodies so many of the qualities we think of when we think of Santa Claus or Kris Kringle, but he was a real person,” said Nadine Gilcreest, a volunteer from Mukilteo.
The 4th-century Greek bishop and Christian saint devoted his life to Christ and helping others, she said. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students.
Organizers aim to share his story along with the message that Christmas is about more than exchanging gifts.
“To me it’s a time of reflection on our Christian heritage,” Gilcreest said. “I enjoy thinking about awaiting the birth of Jesus and making that story available to children everywhere.”
There are numerous tales about Nicholas and the miracles he’s said to have performed. Perhaps his most famous exploit was helping a man who couldn’t afford dowries for his three daughters. The father feared that if his girls didn’t get married, they would be forced to turn to prostitution.
As one version of the story goes, Nicholas was too modest to help the family in public and wanted to save them the humiliation of accepting charity. So he went to the house under the cover of night to deliver three purses filled with gold coins through a window.
Nicholas had a reputation for secretly giving gifts and performing acts of kindness in December. That’s why he became the model for the modern-day Santa Claus.
“What sticks with me is that his good deeds, his works and dedication are still with us,” Gilcreest said. “That’s a pretty powerful impact for one man.”
The 62-year-old has tried to follow his example in her life. A couple of weeks before Christmas every year, she used to help her daughter look through her toybox for things they could donate. Now, Grace Adams has taken that tradition to Texas, passing it on to her son, Griffin, 7. As a grandmother, Gilcreest said, she tries to give Griffin the one thing he really wants instead of showering him with gifts that aren’t as meaningful. That helps keep Christmas a time to focus on being with family and reflecting upon their faith.
Trinity Episcopal Church, 2301 Hoyt Ave., has another inexpensive holiday event coming up. A singalong of Handel’s “Messiah” is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday. The suggested donation is $12.
“This is another community event that lacks the commercial aspect but should be enormous fun,” Gilcreest said.