This post is a day late and a Guilder short, but it really doesn’t make any difference here in the United States because we have no December 6th traditions; it was just another Thursday here. Yet, that’s a much different case in northern Europe. Yesterday was the traditional feast of St. Nicholas, or Nikolaos of Myra, which opens the Christmas season in that part of the world. Not only do some children wake up to find a gift in their shoes, but they may be eating some speculaas at breakfast. These gingerbread-like cookies are ‘stamped’ which form the cookies into bas-relief images of characters and symbols from stories about Saint Nicholas.
It is a shame that customs like this have not survived in the current generation. As a child, we’d get an orange or a piece of candy in our shoe on this date, a custom brought to America by my immigrant grandparents. My wife and I attempted to continue that tradition, but we were not diligent about it and, as a result, our own grandchildren have no idea of this custom.
There is a new book out on St. Nick, The Saint Who Would be Santa Claus, and, rather than reviewing the various traditions surrounding St. Nicholas Day, the author attempts to find the man behind the myth. Of course, that is like attempting to corral the wind, but nonetheless, the book takes the reader on an interesting journey into the history of the time, with all of the legends and customs of Medieval Europe.
As most who read and contribute to this blog understand, the Santa Claus myth was developed to counter the Pagan festival of Saturnalia, the time of gift-giving and celebration that was celebrated in Roman times at the end of December. St. Nick fit in nicely to give it a ‘Christian’ spin. In fact, again as we all know, the Christmas myth is nothing more than a spin on Pagan rites and rituals.
Thus we ask, how’s your Yule coming along?