Mahoning Valley kids learn real story of St. Nick

By Sean Barron


If you wished to describe a portion of Saturday as it applied to 10-year-old Annabelle Himes, you might say it was her version of All Saints Day.

In a nutshell, that’s because she got to participate in the eighth annual St. Nicholas Day Festival at St. James Episcopal Church, 7640 Glenwood Ave.

The free gathering, which in addition to offering a variety of crafts, games and activities for children, featured an Advent party and a service of Evensong to teach youngsters about the real story of Santa Claus and celebrate the life of St. Nicholas, organizers said.

“I like to go shopping and look at all the lights and stuff,” Annabelle, a fifth-grader at Willow Creek Learning Center in Boardman, said about some of her favorite aspects of the Christmas holiday.

Also on the Canfield girl’s favorites list was being able to have her picture taken with St. Nicholas while sitting on his lap during Saturday’s fest.

An American Girl doll and a cellphone are top gift priorities for Annabelle, who also enjoys taking weekly piano and dance lessons.

Enjoying the festivities with Annabelle were her parents, Mike and Lynn Himes, and 9-year-old sister, Sherlyn, a Willow Creek third-grader.

Annabelle and several other youngsters who had portraits of themselves with St. Nicholas also attached stick-on Christmas trees, reindeer and other small decorations to frames to hold their pictures as part of an activity that Julie Van Devender oversaw.

“We’re a one-stop shop,” said Van Devender, a St. James member who also works with the church’s children’s choir. “They decorate their own frames and it’s something for them to remember this day by.”

Other children who weren’t averse to getting their hands a little messy added their creative touches to ornaments made from a doughlike material that Denise Johnson carefully mixed.

Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at Williamson Elementary School in Youngstown, used equal parts of applesauce and cinnamon to prepare the dark-brown material, which resembled clay or bread dough. Her young participants made ornaments from the material with cookie cutters in a variety of shapes, then used straws to poke holes in their creations for strings from which to hang them.

“You put it on a [Christmas] tree, and it makes the house smell good,” Johnson explained to the mother of a boy who used toothpicks to poke tiny holes that formed his name.

Cookies certainly weren’t in short supply, thanks largely to Glenda Young, a former teacher who made spice cookies shaped like candy canes, Christmas trees and stars, to name a few.

Young doled out encouragement to her young participants as they busily added their flair and flavor to the cookies with frosting in assorted colors, as well as M&Ms and candy sprinkles.

Other activities for youngsters included coloring books, along with crossword and word-search puzzle books.

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