Thursday, December 3, 2009

Feast of Saint Nicholas

The feast of Saint Nicholas is December 6th and celebrating this feast day can teach children that Santa Claus is actually a secularized version of Saint Nicholas, a fourth century Bishop of Myra or modern day Turkey. Traditionally on this feast day in Northern Europe, children left their shoes in front of the fireplace and treats were left in them by the morning. This is a beautiful tradition to continue with your family, and here are some additional ideas for celebrating this feast day.
- Read The Legend of St. Nicholas by Demi and The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan
- Give your children new slippers to leave out
- Fill your children's shoes or new slippers with a bag of gold foil covered chocolate coins, as coins are one of the many symbols of St. Nicholas.
- Give each child a religious Christmas book along with their candy.
- Somewhere I read this idea, but can't remember where in order to guve credit of giving the children a note from St. Nicholas (which could be on the back of a holy card) listing the good deeds they have done, as well as anything they need to work on before Christmas.
- Color St. Nicholas coloring pages
- Do a St. Nicholas craft, here is a link to a few
- It is customary (although I don't think we will be doing it this year) to serve Speculaas cookies, a spicy Dutch cookie, cut into shapes relevant to the life of St. Nicholas (coins, mitres, ships, balls, money bags), and painted with colorful icing:
Speculaas Cookies (makes 3 dozen depending on size)
Cookies
1 Cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, at room temperature
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Icing
Powdered sugar
Water
Lemon juice
A little beaten egg white for consistency, if desired
Food coloring
In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Stir in the eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Stir in the lemon rind. Sift the spices and salt with the flour and baking powder, and stir gradually into the butter mixture. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch, or for larger figures to about 1/4 inch. Cut into shapes (Bishop, Bishop's staff, Bishop's mitre, ship, coins, etc.) and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned (don't overbake). When cool, mix together icing ingredients and paint cookies as desired.

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