December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas, also known as “Little Christmas.” I’ve posted this article for the past several years.
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 carvings 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.
Bite-sized bits of North Pole magic are just what your holiday party needs! This delectable balance of salty and sweet is a wonderful way to give everyone an irresistible taste of the Christmas spirit.
- Mini Twist Pretzels
- White Chocolate Almond Bark
- Red Sugar
- Mini Marshmallows
- Melt the white chocolate almond bark according to the directions on the package.
- Dip each mini twist pretzel halfway into the melted white chocolate almond bark.
- Dip each almond bark covered pretzel into the red sanding sugar until only a small amount of the almond bark is showing. Place on waxed paper.
- Cut the mini marshmallows in half. Use additional melted almond bark to adhere a mini marshmallow half onto the side of each pretzel. Allow time for the almond bark to set.
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.
Note: this is a repeat (word for word, except for the recipe…it’s new) of my Dec. 6, 2011 post and Dec. 6, 2012 at annakathrynlanier.blogspot.com.