Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Happy St Nicholas' Day!

Not sure I got the punctuation right up there, But you get the idea.

Today is the Feast of St Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children and sailors. In the U.S it's not a commonly observed holiday, but I have been doing it for about 25 years now. This is all my friend Maggie's fault.

At the time I was living in NYC. So was my friend Maggie, along with her three-year-old son. The rest of her family lived on the West Coast, so she was really on her own. She was born into a Catholic family but the family had pulled out of the church when she was still in grade school, so she was pretty clueless.

One day Maggie showed up at my door and said, "We have to start some Christmas traditions for my son. Do you know any?"

I thought about this. The only Christmas traditions I knew from my own childhood were hiding from my dad as he tried to sort out the Christmas lights and wondering why we bothered to hang up stockings, since nobody ever put anything in them.

"Nope," I said.

Being the writer types we are Maggie and I then did the only thing we knew how to do in such circumstances: we went to Barnes and Noble. Where we actually found a book called "How To Have A Traditional Family Christmas," or something very close to that.
And one of its recommendations was "celebrate St Nicholas Day!"

So we started having little St Nicholas Day parties. At first we let Maggie's little boy pick the menu for dinner (the book recommended this). But this proved to be so disgusting that we gave up on that after a couple of years. Then we introduced the annual making of the gingerbread houses. I baked the walls, Maggie brought the candy, we went wild. Do yo have any hipster friends you'd like to see cut loose once in a while? Invite them to a gingerbread house party. It's amazing how intense the competition gets.

Time passed, Maggie's son grew up, but we kept on celebrating St Nicholas Day. We started giving our annual Christmas party as close to the feast as possible, and always announced it as a St Nicholas party, not a Christmas party or, God forbid, a "holiday" party. We always had a full house.

We;re not giving the party this year. Having the back walls ripped off your house is a real obstacle to lavish entertaining. But we will definitely do something special for good old St Nick.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

We started celebrating St Nicholas Day when my son was born on Dec 17. Both our families put out shoes the night before, so we took it one step further: since there were lots of generous aunts and uncles, and I didn't want our gifts lost in the Christmas gift-giving, we put out gifts for the kids and each other on Dec 6. St Nick would leave letters, too.

Now, the son is at the US Naval Academy, almost 20 years old. I have successfully found "co-conspirators" to place St. Nick gifts, letter, and goodies under and in his shoes w/o his knowledge. It totally makes his (and our) day! St Nicholas rocks!