Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 6 Saint Nicholas

Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus. What are your memories of Santa Claus and waiting for him to come at Christmas? What does Santa mean to you today and how do you pass along that meaning to family and to others?

photo credit: stnicholascenter.org
St Nicholas Day was a very big deal when I was growing up.  It was also my brother's birthday.  Since we were of German heritage, we followed the custom of putting our shoes by the front door on the evening of December 5 in the hope that they would be filled the next morning.  As I remember it, if we (children) remembered to put the shoes by the door, they were filled in the morning.  The shoes had some nuts, an orange or tangerine and some hard candies.  This provided an exciting prelude to the big event of Christmas which was still to come.  

In the weeks between St Nicholas Day and Christmas we were encouraged to have good behavior.  Mom and Dad would spy Santa's elves peeking in a window or from behind a door.  This definitely encouraged good behavior since no one wanted the lump of coal representing bad behavior!  I've lately wondered if this was the foreshadowing of the "Elf on the Shelf" tradition. 

Paddy O'Cinnamon
image courtesy of the website 


 There was also the tradition of listening to the "Adventures of Paddy O'Cinnamon"  aka the Cinnamon Bear at 5:30 weekday evenings on the kitchen radio.  I think we each had our own visual of Jimmy, Judy, and Paddy.  It is still available on mp3s.

On Christmas Eve we were allowed to open one gift befor going to bed,  This was usually new pajamas from our Aunt Pauline and Uncle Bill.  Since there were always wee ones around Christmas Morning came very early in the day.  When we came downstairs the living room was a feast for the eyes with gifts spread out all around the room.  Santa left each child's gifts in a separate spot.  With nine children in the house you can imagine what the living room looked like. There were always dolls and cars, trains, or blocks.

As my children were growing up, we also celebrated St Nicholas Day although my kids thought snowmobile boots were a suitable substitute for their shoes!



I used to save the toys from cereal boxes to add to the "Loot".  Some times there were some gold foil wrapped coins too!




My daughter and her husband added wrapped Santa presents to the other traditions.  They began celebrating St Nicholas Day with their kids when they lived in Germany although it is a different celebration there.  In Germany, St Nicholas Day is when the gifts are given and Christmas is a day reserved as a celebration of the birth of Christ.

Currently the day is still a celebration of the birth of Christ and the gifts are opened after attending Mass.