Today is St. Nicholas Day! It’s when wide-eyed children hope that St. Nicholas will secretly stop by to leave them a small gift or candy. I haven’t heard this day being celebrated all that widely in the U.S., but this Feast Day is celebrated across Europe. In the Netherlands, children set out their shoes with a carrot in them, hoping to get a small gift in exchange the next day. In the Bavarian region of Germany and in Austria, there are two characters involved: St. Nicholas, in bishop’s garb, and a beast-like creature called Krampus. Krampus seeks out naughty children, threatening to take them away with him, whereas St. Nicholas hands out gifts to the good children. In Poland, St. Nicholas is depicted in white bishop’s garments. Children may find candy or other small gifts in their shoes or under their pillow when they wake up on December 6th. I have to say that while I don’t recall St. Nicholas being celebrated where I grew up in Philadelphia, my kids’ preschool here in Virginia did give this feast day a heavy nod by giving the kids treats.
The real St. Nicholas was of Greek origin, born in a port city, Patara, in what is now Turkey. At the time in history, this town was populated by Greeks. Nicholas eventually became the Bishop of Myrna. He died on December 6th in 343 A.D. He had a reputation of helping those in need, particularly children. He is also the patron saint of sailors. There are quite a few legends about him, but somewhere along the way, the story took a wide detour in North America. We are left with the red-suited Santa Claus who departs his home in the North Pole to ride his reindeer-driven sleigh across the world and drops off a pile of gifts at each home on Christmas Eve! As today is the original celebration day of St. Nicholas, and the origin of gift-giving to children, why not bake a special treat for the kiddos? Here is a cookie recipe in St. Nicholas’s honor. This is for you, St. Nick!