This is our first St. Nicholas Day Celebration together as a family! It’s extremely common to celebrate this saint day all throughout Europe, even being the main gift-giving holiday during December in many areas. It is typically celebrated on December 5th or 6th in this part of the world, and I’ve been so looking forward to starting our own traditions together for this special day.
Born in Patara, Lycia, in Asia Minor, St. Nicholas lived from March 15th, 270 until December 6th, 343, and has been a greatly loved and admired example of the Christian faith ever since. He was known as a man of great compassion, gentleness, and generosity. Raised by devout Christian parents, a deep love for God, His truth, and care for the poor and needy was instilled in him from a young age. Early in life, St. Nicholas was orphaned during a great epidemic that swept through the area, as his parents had been caring for the sick. Perhaps partly because of this experience, St. Nicholas displayed a special care for children and for the sick and poverty-stricken during his own life so long ago. He was also a great defender of the Christian faith, battling heresy and upholding truth all throughout his lifetime. He went on to become a beloved Bishop of Myra as well, and many legends and stories of miracles surround him.
One of the most famous of these is when St. Nicholas secretly tossed money through a window into a destitute man’s house to save his daughters from being sold into some form of slavery. Legend says that his gifts landed in the girls’ shoes or stockings which were drying by the fire. It’s from this that many of the traditions around this saint day spring forth from. St. Nicholas is a favourite saint among children for the obvious reasons surrounding such a fun and magical day, and I am loving this start at practicing the traditions in honour of his memory and for the enrichment of our faith as a family by such a significant example of the Christian faith.
To celebrate, we practiced a few of the common traditions, which include the hanging of stockings and enjoying certain treats: chocolate coins, oranges, and sometimes little chocolates shaped as St. Nicholas. The children’s grandparents came over in the afternoon, bringing presents and another traditional treat: Speculaas or Spekulatius, a Dutch-German origin shortbread cookie spiced with all of those lovely, warming spices common during these colder, wintertime months: cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg. So delicious!
St. Nicholas festivities usually begin first thing in the morning with an eager inspection of the stockings or shoes left out for treats. Since we waited for family to come over though, we let the children get started just as soon as they arrived that afternoon.
Margot excitedly ran up the staircase to the landing and examined the stockings hanging there in a row on the radiator. The obvious location it seems when you don’t have a fireplace. We gathered them up along with the extra gifts from Nada and Grandad and carried them back down to the living room.
The anticipation was high as the contents of the stockings and gift-bags were quickly emptied. Nada helped with the proceedings, and Margot and Cassian offered up shouts of delight over a small wooden train and cars sets, puzzles, and a paintable tea set.
The traditional St. Nicholas-shaped chocolate, chocolate coins, and the kids’ oranges were quickly eaten alongside the hot tea and Speculaas cookies. Margot ran around offering us pieces of her chocolate, sharing willingly with all. It made my heart glad to see the beginnings of generosity displayed in her too. Perhaps the renowned St. Nicholas spirit of giving is making an impression in her already?
We then laid things out to start painting Margot’s new tea set. Her last tea set sadly didn’t survive her young toddler years, and she was long overdue for a new one. All the teacups had been broken and replaced by large lego blocks turned upside down and imaginatively transformed into teacups in her mind. We had a wonderful time together, mixing colours and then painting this entirely new tea set.
Cassian scarfed down some oranges slices, and then played contentedly on the floor with his new wooden train set. He’s a simple little man, what can I say?
Margot also did a great job colouring in this colouring page of St. Nicholas too. She really enjoyed colouring as I told her all about who St. Nicholas was and why he is important to Christians throughout time. She then had me write down her name, along with a very specific list of names of her friends. Pretty cute, right? Too bad her poor Mama didn’t make the cut, haha. I don’t mind too much though.
All in all, I think our first St. Nicholas day celebrations were a huge success, and I can’t wait for celebrating again next year! It will be so special to see Margot looking forward to next year, and then Cassian too as he gets older and anticipates the years to come.