St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas

Acrylic on window pane

As part of our Dutch tradition, every year we celebrate St. Nicholas Day. This is always on the 6th of December, St. Nicholas’ feast day, and tradition dictates that children leave notes in their klompen (Dutch wooden shoes) of their Christmas lists for St. Nicholas.

I love this tradition. Every year we pull out the klompen and line them up in front of the fireplace. I don’t even think that half my foot could fit in my klompen now because we got them when I was like 10 at a Dutch store near my great-grandmother’s home in California. (It’s also a brilliant idea for any parent needing a deadline for Christmas lists.) The next morning, we would wake up with our lists gone (!) and treats in our klompen.

This Christmas I looked into the history of the tradition.

St. Nicholas and the gifts 

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

(From the St. Nicholas center)



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