Here is the story I wrote of Nicholas and the Christmas Mice, to go along with a new tradition of Christmas Mice Mischief.
Listen, my children and you will hear an interesting (if not completely accurate) tale from the long ago…
Once upon a time, far far away in a little village called Patara, there lived a man named Nicholas. He lived alone, for his parents had passed away from a terrible sickness when he was younger. They had left him a home and plenty of wealth for him to have an easy life. Nicholas decided that he wanted to obey Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” so he used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God. Wherever he went he helped out both people and creatures.
He couldn’t bear to see anyone in pain without helping out. Even the smallest little animals were helped. One time he saved a mouse from a mangy cat who was playing with the little mouse like a ball of yarn. Another day he pulled a small mouse out of a washtub where the little thing was drowning in the soap suds. Once a trap had captured a young mouseling by the hind leg and Nicholas set it free. And one cold winter night a starving mouse crept in to warm himself by Nicholas’ fire and scavenge for crumbs and he didn’t have the heart to sweep it back out into the cold, so he let it stay.
Needless to say, these little creatures were forever grateful to Nicholas for saving them from certain death. They refused to leave him and settled into his home, determined to help him and cheer him up and be his family.
The little mice quickly caught on that Nicholas had some secrets! He had been helping out the people in his community. Using his inheritance, he tried to do good wherever he could, but didn’t want to let anyone know that it came from his hand. The little mice would watch as he put on his cloak with a furry hood and quietly leave the house in the dark and damp of the night, not even lighting a candle to see by.
At his return, right before the sunrise, the little mice would blink open their eyes at the squeak of the door, and peek out from their cozy beds. At first they wondered what Nicholas was up to in the dead of night.
Then one day he let them in on his secret doings, for he needed their help. He explained in a modest way how he was trying to help his neighbors, and how he didn’t want anyone to find out who the secret helper was. Down the road aways was the small cabin of a poor fisherman and his three daughters. They were so poor that the fisherman feared that no one would want to marry his daughters and that they would become sad old maids.
Nicholas wanted to share some of his gold coins with the fisherman so that his three daughters could have lovely weddings to fine young men. The problem was that Nicholas couldn’t figure out a way of getting the gold coins into the fisherman’s hut at night, because the little home was always guarded by an old but fierce and loyal dog who wouldn’t let anyone near his master’s home.
The little mice pleaded to be allowed to help. “It will be a dangerous mission, but worthy of your courage and generosity, my dear little mice,” said Nicholas. His jolly face beamed down at the four of them, pleased to have company on this lonely midnight adventure.
The small group of mice climbed onto Nicholas’ shoulder and nestled close in his furry cloak as they set off into the dark night. Nicholas had the gold coins in a small sack which he held tightly, but every now and then the mice could hear a faint jingle as the coins clinked together, as there were several of them in the sack. Before long, they were nearing the fisherman’s cabin and Nicholas slowed his pace.
“I will go to the other side of the house,” whispered Nicholas, “in order to distract the watch dog. When you hear him barking at me, you must quickly make a dash for that window which is slightly open and somehow get the coins inside. Can you do it my little friends?” The little mice squeaked with agreement and excitement! There was nothing they loved better than an adventure!
Nicholas carefully set them down on a tree stump and handed them the gold coins, then turned to the corner of the cabin. The old watch dog sprang to life and started in chase of the shadowy figure. Their hearts beating like little drums in a parade, the mice ran, clutching the coins in their tiny paws. Up the side of the rough wooden house and onto the windowsill they climbed in a flash! There was just enough room to squeeze through the crack where the shutters stood slightly open. They could hear the barking of the dog getting louder and knew that it would be only moments until the fisherman woke and saw the midnight visitors.
Hardly daring to breathe, much less squeak, the mice glanced around for the safest spot in which to place the coins. Not far from the windowsill was a small fireplace and by the glowing of the last embers, they could see that by the hearth there was a sewing basket, a pile of aprons and some long fuzzy stockings hanging from some pegs in the wall so they could dry out by the heat of the now sleepy fire. The sewing basket, they winked at each other! Quickly creeping to the edge of the window ledge, each little mouse hefted a gold coin and aimed for the safe-looking sewing basket. Most of them had good aim, and 3 gold coins plopped into the sewing basket, but the fourth went spinning off the side and plunked down into the ladies’ stocking and slithered down into the toe!
No time to waste! The fisherman gave a groan and was dragging himself from his bed as the four little mice whisked back through the open window. Just in time too, for Nicholas appeared at that moment and held out his hand hurriedly to the mice. They jumped and clutched his hand as he ran off, away from the grouchy dog.
Safe and sound back home, Nicholas could tell from the bright eyes and happy grins of the mice that their mission had been accomplished! He chuckled at their excitement and suggested that everyone go to sleep before the sun rose, but the little mice were already busy planning their next midnight adventure!!
And so that helper of children, grown-ups, sailors and animals, himself had help! He took care of the little band of mice, and they in turn helped him. His busy days and nights were livened by the antics of the friendly little mice. When they weren’t helping him on his missions, they were bound to be up to some mischief in his house!! There was no keeping them still!
Their favorite time of year was near Christmas, when Nicholas would set up a small nativity scene and read to them the story of that very First Christmas. The little mice would snuggle up to hear the story and gaze with wonder on the manger. Then soon they would be off on another “helpful adventure,” doing their part to spread cheer and love and kindness. Through the years, the little band of mice grew and had their own little families, but they were always faithful to the ideals of their human friend and taught their mouselings the joy of giving and helping. If you ever spot a helpful little mouse in your house, forgive the mischief it might cause and remember that we can all be helpful and bring joy, no matter how large or small we might be!