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Sunnyside’s Christians Celebrate St. Nicholas Day and Nativity Story

Father Brian Dowd reads a prayer to 200 attendees outside Queen of Angels Church (source: Walt Storck, 2012)

Dec. 6, 2013 By Jon Storck

More than 200 Christians participated in a carol singing procession down Skillman Avenue on Wednesday night.

The event was organized by five local churches and was a celebration of St Nicholas Day, a saint best known for gift-giving.

The event starting at the grounds of Sunnyside Reformed Church (48th and Skillman) with the lighting of the church’s outdoor Christmas tree. Attendees then walked down Skillman Avenue—with many holding candles–toward Queen of Angels Church.

The participants during the procession sang traditional Christmas carols such as What Child Is This?  and Away In A Manger.  Two traditional Spanish carols were also sung.

The crowd extended for several blocks while the voice of Nicholle Bittlingmeyer, from the Queen of Angels choir, led the singing.  The scene and atmosphere fit the very words of one carol: “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

Once at Queen of Angels, the story of the birth of Jesus was read. The participants gathered around a nativity creche that had been erected outside the church.

After singing and prayers were complete, St. Nicholas (better known as Santa) arrived, which came as no surprise since the festival is essentially a tribute to him.

Santa listened to each child’s Christmas wish list, while the adults drank hot chocolate and ate cookies.

The St. Nicholas Day event was the 3rd held by the five churches.

The event was sponsored by Father Brian Dowd of Queens of Angels Church, Pastor Neil Margetson of Sunnyside Reformed Church, Pastor Joshua Hollman of Christ Lutheran Church, Father Joseph Jerome of All Saints Church, and Pastor Jon Storck of Grace Fellowship Church.

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Would it be possible in future years to have a listing of ALL of the Sunnyside/Woodside community events for the holiday season? In one place?

I think it would be great just to see all that our community offers as a way to celebrate the various holidays and NON-‘hol(y)-days’ like New Year’s Eve and other events that those who are anti-religion but still enjoy celebrating during this time of the year could inform us about.

(Being copied on each December post, btw. For those that read every single article, please forgive my repetition.)


Wait I thought there was a War on Christmas and that families were being attacked and forced to gay marry against their will? Bill O’Reilly and Pat Robertson swore it was so and these people look like they believe them so what gives?

Irving Douglas Estella

The celebration of St. Nicholas Day also has deep roots in New York City’s history. The venerable bishop of Myra was honored by the Dutch settlers and their descendants as Sinterklaas, a conflation of Saint and Klaus, the latter itself a nickname for Nicholas. Like their cousins in Holland, Dutch New Yorkers would put out their wooden shoes on December 6th so that St. Nick might fill them with goodies. A good-natured citizen would dress up as a traditional bishop with red robes, mitre, and crozier in one hand with a sack of treats in the other as he filled the shoes of the good girls and boys of New Amsterdam and old New York.

The sight of an updated revival of St. Nicholas Day in today’s New York thrills the heart as it brightens our neighborhood with a linkage to so much that was good that occurred in colonial New York, Myra of Asia Minor, and Bethlehem of Judaea.


Is it me or this year I don’t see many houses with enough lights, what’s wrong with people, it’s a festive holiday, put up some lights, don’t be cheapskates, lights are very reasonably priced.

Mark of the Beast

The South side has an atheist version of this event. Last night down Greenpoint Avenue nobody showed up and marched, lit candles or sang songs.



I’m not religious but I would love to join in the Christmas spirit! I hope to hear about it next year 🙂


actually the name “Santa Clause” is an audio derivative of “Saint Nicholas.” SAaiNT(A) niCHoLAS”

the following was an excerpt in the program from the other night:

“Our modern day “Santa Claus” was actually inspired by the historical 4th Century Bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas. Even the name itself, “Santa Claus,” is an abbreviated derivative of the name “St. Nicholas” – “SAiNT(A) niCHoLAS.”

St. Nicholas was born in the Greek village of Patara on what is now the southern coast of Turkey. His parents, who were extremely wealthy, raised him to be a devout Christian but died in an epidemic when Nicholas was still young, leaving him a significant inheritance. However, instead of using the wealth for his own personal gain and pleasure, Nicholas actually used his entire inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. His reputation for being generous with both his money and time to children and even to sailors, became widespread and subsequently, he was made Bishop.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. However, when Constantine became the Roman Emperor he released Nicholas who was later given credit for protecting the city of Myra from the influence of Arianism heresy, which denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

St. Nicholas died December 6, 343 AD in Myra and not long thereafter, the anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day.

Many stories and legends have arisen in light of his immense generosity. And though it is difficult to prove which of the stories and legends about St. Nicholas are historical, it remains certain that they all reflect something true and authentic about this historical man. He most certainly took his faith in God seriously and his life was a demonstration of Jesus’ words that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”


Now this is a holiday that is really enjoyable leading up to the days before Christmas makes its mark. Just to know there are other Christians too celebrating this day such as Catholics, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, etc. Why is it that Christians in general are always the only ones mentioned and not the other churches. Just curious. Have a happy St. Nicholas Day everyone!


Lovely – sorry I missed it.
St Nicholas is known for more than gift giving (wikipedia my dear) and is not Santa.


I understand there will be more promotion next year.

Apparently it started 3 years ago as an ecumenical event to provide 5 different Christian denominations a chance to celebrate what they share in common, the core of the Christian faith. It has grown each year with Sunnysiders joining the procession whether or not they were affiliated with any of the churches or even of faith at all. The event’s name itself wasn’t even decided on until this year. In the past it had been called various things by each church, even.

Their plan going forward seems to now be to promote it as a Sunnyside-wide event in the future.

Something on the Southside would be great too! All 5 of these churches are of course on the North side. They might be open to collaborating with churches on the south side of the Blvd. but crossing it would be difficult with that many people.


I heard them singing and went to look through the window to see what was going on. Some advance notice would have been nice.


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