Saturday, December 6, 2008


Tonight I looked up the actual definition of the word ‘tradition’. So it is, by definition, the passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation. Every family…or every individual, really, has their own ideas on what defines tradition and what ‘traditions’ are important to continue and pass along as they get older and their family units change. I would imagine for most people, holidays and other family events are most likely centered around tradition. And as we get older it seems we have a responsibility to observe and carry on the things we learned from our parents, who probably learned from their own parents and so on down the ancestry line.

The tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas is relatively new to me…raised protestant, we didn’t celebrate the life of saints, so therefore St. Nicholas, as far as I knew, was Santa Claus. But, St. Nick’s day is one of those special traditions for D.J., so every year on the night of December 5th, he sneaks around the house like a little elf, filling up whoever’s stocking happens to be hanging from the fireplace. Of course, now, those stockings have our sweet little girls’ names embroidered on the front…and as I sit here writing this, they are overflowing with gizmos, candy, and books with a little Care Bear peaking over the top of each one. Yes, St. Nick has been here already this evening…and apparently our girls have been very good this year.

I tried to explain St. Nick’s day to Anna this evening, but I couldn’t. Wasn’t St. Nick really just Santa Claus, who we don't celebrate until the eve of Dec 25th? What was the difference? So I got on-line and did what any modern day researcher would do…I googled it! There is a ton of web information on good old St. Nicholas…frequently referred to as St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, but also noted as not only the patron saint of children and sailors, but also thieves and nudists…it seems St. Nicholas wanted to help everyone!

But what was most interesting to me was how his legend had become tradition and how St. Nick had been celebrated separately from our bearded, rosy cheeked, jolly friend Santa Claus all these years. I found the below excerpt, which helped us determine our own tradition of St. Nick and how we would explain him to our children…as Santa’s helper.

“While feasts of Saint Nicholas are not observed nationally, cities with strong German influences like Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis celebrate St. Nick's Day on a scale similar to the German custom.[4] On the previous night, children put one empty shoe (or sock) outside, and, on the following morning of December 6, the children awake to find that St. Nick has filled their previously empty footwear with candy and small presents (if the children have been "good") or coal (if not). For these children, the relationship between St. Nick and Santa Claus is not clearly defined, although St. Nick is usually explained to be a helper of Santa. The tradition of St. Nick's Day is firmly established in the Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis communities, with parents often continuing to observe the day with even their adult children. Widespread adoption of observing the tradition has spread throughout the german, polish and belgian communities throughout Wisconsin, and is carried out through modern times.”

What a great tradition to enjoy with our young children and a great way to recognize the spirit of giving throughout the holiday season. While we’re on the topic, another tradition that I thought would not only be fun, but would also help our children remember each year why we really celebrate Christmas is baking a birthday cake for Baby Jesus…or singing Happy Birthday to him on Christmas day. I don’t know if we’ll adopt this tradition, but what a great way to honor our beloved holiday. The pics below are of Anna waking up and realizing that St. Nick had paid her and Josephine a visit while they slept! Oh and the November slideshow is posted…just click “November 2008” to view. Happy St. Nick's Day!

1 comment:

Kimmy said...

Happy St. Nick's Day!

Ellie and Cole would love to help all of you bake a cake for baby Jesus and then on Christmas morning we can sing to him. I think it is a great idea!

Can't wait to see you all.....