December 6, 2010

Holday Cheer - Little Christmas & Speculaas

December 6th - The Feast of St. Nicholas*
*Also know as Little Christmas

I first learned of Little Christmas in 1978, when I was an exchange student in Finland. My host family celebrated it with a party and the exchange of small gifts. December 6th is the Feast Day of the Roman Catholic Saint Nicholas, a fourth century bishop of the city of Myra in what is now Turkey. He is one of those the legend of Santa Claus is based on.

According to the website Women For Faith and Family “Saint Nicholas was renowned for his great kindness and his generous aid to those in distress. Among the kind and miraculous acts attributed to him are saving three young girls from prostitution by secretly providing them with dowries, raising three murdered boys from the dead, and saving sailors caught in stormy seas. For these reasons, he is considered the patron saint of children, unmarried girls, and sailors, among others.”

But it is wrong to assume that he is the legend of Santa Claus. He is one of many, including the pre-Christian Scandinavian legend of Odin, who rode throughout the world in winter on his eight-footed horse, Sleipnir, giving out gifts or punishments. Other legends include Knecht Ruprecht from Germany, Sinterklass from The Netherlands and Father Christmas from England.

The custom of hanging stockings also derives from these legends. From Bishop Nicholas comes the story that when he threw the three bags of gold to save the three sisters from slavery, they landed in their stockings, hung out to dry. Later, Dutch children would put out their wooden shoes for Sinterklass to leave them goodies – apples, candies, cookies and sometimes money to represent the dowries of the three young girls. Of course, those who were bad received coal or switches instead.

In my novella, A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE, Santa Claus pays a visit to Tessa and Jacob.

“Did you open your stocking?”

“My stocking?” She closed the dishwasher and turned it on.

“Yeah, that red thing hanging on the mantle. Did you open yours?”

She cocked her head and smiled. What had he done? “No.”

He hustled her out of the kitchen to the living room. Two red velvet stockings with white trim hung from the mantle, both obviously stuffed with gifts. He removed one and handed it to her, then retrieved his own.

She squeezed the stocking, the soft velvet rubbing her hands as a hard object pressed back. It had been years since she’d had a stocking, not since leaving the home. Childish excitement bubbled inside her, along with gratitude at Jacob’s thoughtfulness.

He waved a hand to the couch and she sat on one side while he sat on the other. She watched as he removed a candy bar, then a small, thin wrapped gift. He shook it.

“No rattle. I wonder what it can be.” He ripped off the paper to reveal a little black date book. “Santa gets me one of these every year. Hey, you’re not opening your stocking.”

The heat of a blush crept up her face. “I’ve had a stocking before. The group home always gave us one.” She delved into the red velvet, anxious to see what Santa had left her.

He opened his candy bar and took a large bite. “I never said you hadn’t,” he spoke around the chocolate.
Bright green paper fell away from a bottle of perfume, the sort you got from the drug store. She loved it.

The next few minutes revealed a pair of gloves, aftershave and a movie DVD for Jacob. She received bath salts, a word search book and her own candy bar. Both stockings had an orange and nuts in the bottom.
Sighing happily, Tessa fell back against the couch. “That was a pleasant surprise.”

“Well, I’d love to take the credit, but Christina did it. She gave me the gifts last night.”

Ah, so that was the bag he’d carried home.

“But you played Santa.”

“I suppose I did.” His hazel gaze bore into her. “And you played Mrs. Claus.”

Her forehead wrinkled in confusion. “How do you figure?”

“Last night you helped me make cookies. And you’ve fixed that strudel for Pee Wee and Taylor. Isn’t that what Mrs. Claus does, bake cookies?”

Tessa grinned. “I suppose it is.”

She couldn’t remember a time when she’d felt so…joyful, if she’d ever felt joyful. She laughed.

Blurb – A Gift Beyond All Measure

Arriving home for Christmas, the last thing Jacob Scott expects in his house is a sexy, shotgun-toting stranger. Worse, his attraction to her bothers him even more than the gun. Still reeling from the deception of his long-time girlfriend, he’s not looking for romance.

Tessa Jones has learned one hard lesson—when everyone in your life has failed you the only one you can trust is yourself. Facing the whispers of the townsfolk and an arson charge, Tessa unexpectedly finds herself trusting Jacob with more than her legal troubles.

Struggling between the promise of the present and the hurts of the past, can these two lost souls overcome their pain long enough to discover a gift beyond all measure?

"This is a must read for anyone who needs a good dose of Christmas romance. You won’t be disappointed."
 A Five Star Review by Ginger Simpson

Available from The Wild Rose Press December 8, 2010.

December 8-31st only – FREE COOKBOOK! Download a free pdf companion cookbook for A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE. Just visit my website for the link. The cookbook contains 27 mouth-watering recipes.

Leave a comment for a chance to win an electronic copy of both The Priceless Gift and A Gift Beyond All Measure.

Learn more about Anna Kathryn and her stories at and

This cookie is traditional baked in The Netherlands and Belgium for Little Christmas.



1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
Finely grated rind of 1 large lemon (outer yellow skin of lemon)
1 cup sliced or shaved almonds


In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and lemon zest until well combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined. Flatten the dough into a round, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and form into 1 inch (2.5 cm) balls. Place the balls of dough on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Then, using the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, flatten each ball of dough to about 1/4 inch thick (can also use a cookie stamp). Sprinkle each cookie with the shaved almonds. Bake for about 10 - 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.


Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus!... There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.
~ Francis P Church, New York Sun, Sep. 21, 1897
"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus"


Bethany said...

Cool post, Anna. In my background I've got a variety of cultures, but 2 of them celebrate St. Nicholas Day--German and Flemish. I grew up with the practice of putting out my shoe and receiving gifts. It's a fun Holiday and a wonderful tradition. Glad you got to experience it :-)

robynl said...

one can always use a new cookie recipe so thanks; I've never heard of Little Christmas before.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by. Bethany I'm glad you're family celebrates this. I should have done so with my kids.

Robyn, I don't know if I knew about it before Finland or not, but it's a fun day, even if you don't exchange gifts, do a cookie baking day or some such to perpare for Christmas.