December 6, 2011

The Feast of St. Nicholas - December 6th

*Also known as Little Christmas


I first learned of Little Christmas in 1978, when I was an exchange student in Finland. My host family celebrated the day 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.

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 alone 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.

History.com explains that Santa Claus came to America via the Dutch. In 1773 and 1774, New York newspapers reported gatherings of Dutch families in honor of the anniversary of Bishop Nicholas’s death, December 6th.  In the early 19th Century, John Pintard, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the annual meeting of the New York Historical Society.  The carving’s background included background images of stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, the stories of Sinter Klass was further popularized by Washington Irving when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York.

I know that we complain about stores taking the meaning out of Christmas with all their advertisements. But this is nothing new.  In 1820, stores were advertising Christmas shopping and by the 1840’s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertising.  The first Santa in a store was here by 1841.  In the early 1890’s the Salvation Army recruited unemployed men to dress up as Santa and solicit money for the free meals they gave away on Christmas. Though today it is rare to see someone dressed as Santa, the bell ringers are still holiday icons.

The publication of “An Account of a Visit From St. Nick” by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822 also helped to further the image and popularity of Santa Claus. Moore also gave the familiar description of Santa (Jolly old elf) and named the reindeer, though two of them have since been renamed.  The poem has also been attributed to Henry Livingston, Jr.

For a great timeline of St. Nicolas in America, check out The History of Christmas’s America’s page.



SANTA WHISKER’S

Ingredients:
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter
2 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp anilla
¾ cup finely chopped candied red and/or green cherries
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
¾ cup coconut

Directions:


Beat margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add about half the flour, then add the sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat till thoroughly combined. Stir in remaining flour, cherries and pecans.

Shape into 8-inch long rolls. Roll in coconut. Wrap in wax paper; chill 2- 24 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices. Place on an un-greased cookie sheet, for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden.

Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Now, for some promotional stuff. In my novella, A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE, Santa Claus pays a visit to Tessa and Jacob in this excerpt:

“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, Kindle and Nook.

FREE COOKBOOK! Download a free pdf of 
A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE COOKBOOK. Just visit my website for the link. The cookbook contains 27 mouth-watering recipes. 

Learn more about Anna Kathryn and her stories at 
http://www.aklanier.com/.

6 comments:

Nancy Jardine said...

Nice recipe Anna. My two daughters were born in Holland and we have a photo of our oldest one beside Sinter Klaas on 6th Dec when he came to visit the children of the cul de sac where my friend lived. (I think he was one of the grandfather's) All the older children went from house to house trailing after him and watched as younger toddlers got their gifts. (The older kids got their own gift at their own house.) How typical that was I'm not sure but it worked in the 'pedestrianised' community where the walking pathways were free of cars or had 'drempels'/ speed bumps to slow down accesing traffic. It was quite different for me as a Scot, to hear that he had sailed up to Holland from Spain!

Roseanne Dowell said...

We celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas when I was a child and I continued the tradition with my own children. We used to put out our stockings and in the morning there'd be apples and oranges, candy and sometimes a small toy like a harmonica or hair clips for us girls. My parents always put up our Christmas tree on this date. I also did until we got our first artificial tree. Then we started putting it up the day after Thanksgiving, but we still celebrated St. Nicholas Day until my children got a little older and the apples and oranges didn't excite them anymore. Thanks for sharing the history and I love the recipe.

Lilly Gayle said...

Interesting post. And I love the sexy man in the santa hat. lol!
BTW 12/6/11 is also Krampus Day--if you're from Austria or Germany. I'm not, but my daughter lives in Germany.

marybelle said...

I love learning interesting facts about how other cultures celebrate.

Melissa said...

Always love learning where and how traditions get started. :) And the recipe sounds yummy too! Wondering if I feed those to hubby if I will end up with those results! ha! :)

Patricia Preston said...

Great Santa post and pic as well! LOL! Will Tweet