Today is St Nicholas’ Day. St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, pawnbrokers, repenting thieves and children. He is also the patron saint of Russia and Greece, and such cities as Liverpool, Aberdeen and Galway, and is also popularly known as Santa Claus.

St Nicholas was born in Greece in 270 A.D. and was orphaned at an early age, being left with considerable wealth. He became known for his kindness, helping the poor, sick and suffering with aid and gifts. He devoted himself to a life serving God and became the bishop of Myra. He reminds us that the Christian life should involve serving others and helping those in need.

One ‘alternative’ Advent calendar is to put aside an item to help others each day during Advent. It might be a tin of beans or a packet of rice. By doing this each day of Advent, you end up with either 21 or 24 items (depending whether you start on 1 December or 3 December!) to give to a food bank, for example, to help people in need. Maybe on St Nicholas’ Day we can focus on giving, rather than receiving!