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It’s the most fattening time of the year

Happy St. Nikolas Day!

Parade of St. Nicholi
Parade of St. Nicholi

I consider myself really lucky to be the product of a number of countries and cultures. I’m like a walking melting pot. There’s just about everything in my mix, but the last two branches of my family tree are Dutch and Texan.

The Texan part has been pretty obvious in a couple of my books. The Dutch part–my Mom’s side–is closer to home. Especially when it comes to Advent, Christmas, and most of all… Sweets.

Growing up, we always celebrated “Sinterklaas” or St. Nikolas Day. (Or St. Nicholas Day.)  St. Nicholas is a historical saint, born Greek in Asia Minor, and the tradition around him centers around generosity to children and the needy. As a saint, his particularly revered in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Orthodox church. He’s the patron of sailors, fishermen, repentant thieves, and children.

Saint Nicholas from a 11th Century Icon
Saint Nicholas from a 11th Century Icon

Oh, and merchants, which I find amusing given that St. Nicholas was co-opted into Santa Claus which was co-opted into the secular icon of end of the year overindulgence. (If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you know my feelings on Santa Claus. My list of horrors goes something like: Zombies, clowns,  Santa Claus, sock monkeys and marionettes.) Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of any excuse for overindulgence. I’m just saying that most American Christmas traditions have about as much to do with the birth of Christ as Miracle Whip has to do with mayonnaise.

See how I brought it back to food? Because in MY house, St. Nicholas is revered because he brings chocolate.

Wooden Shoes with Goodies via Gardenmama.typepad.com. Check out the full photo by clicking picture.
Wooden Shoes with Goodies via Gardenmama.typepad.com. Check out the full photo by clicking picture.

This is the tradition: On December 5th, children put out their shoes full of hay and/or carrots for Sinterklaas’s horse. In the morning… DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE GOODNESS.   Chocolate and cookies and toffee. The real Dutch deal, which when I was a kid was hard to get ahold of without visiting a specialty store.

Forget the gift. I love that shoe.
Forget the gift. I love that shoe.

We also put up our Christmas decorations on or near December 6th, and that’s the official start of playing Christmas music. (I just posted m Extremely Eclectic Christmas Favorite’s Mix to Tumblr. Check it out here.)

So, what’s your favorite tradition for Christmas, Hanukah, Solstice or other family gathering? Does it involve food?  Music? Gifts?