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Monday, November 7, 2011

My Family Tradition - Saint Nicholas Day

This beautiful German Postcard was found in ETSY shop FineArts8 at
http://www.etsy.com/shop/finearts8?ref=seller_info
Many family traditions are past down for so many years that the members often do not remember how they evolved.  My grandfather, born in Baden Baden, Germany arrived on Elise Island at age 8.  My great grandparent brought many Christmas traditions from Germany that our family practiced with great enthusiasm throughout my childhood. One of those traditions included celebrating Saint Nicholas and fortunately there is a wonderful story behind this tradition.  

The tradition of Saint Nicholas has many different origins and stories of how the Patron Saint became a celebrated figure by Christians world wide.  Nicholas was a fourth century saint that also had great wealth.  He is known for his many miracles and his great generosity and compassion. 
My first memories of this celebration was when I hung my father's large wool sock by the mantel and was told that a mysterious Saint would fill it with a surprise during the night.  My family story of St. Nicholas was that he was a Saint that would take care of the poor children of his time by leaving them things that they needed.  During his time many children were orphaned and had nothing, not even shoes to wear in the cold.  Each year, as the cold of winter drew nearer, he would go house to house selecting those of poor children and leaving them shoes wear.  But not only did he leave this wonderful gift of protection from the cold, he filled each shoe with nuts, fruit, coins and little toys.  If it wasn't for the Saint's generosity the children may not have survived the winter let alone received such novelty items as a toy.  He did this anonymously giving the gift an air of mystery and demonstrating true selflessness.
These amazing Antique German Shoes were found in ETSY shop Lookinglasshouse at
http://www.etsy.com/shop/lookinglasshouse?ref=seller_info
As years passed children would leave their shoes and stockings out by the hearth for the great Saint to fill.  Over time stories grew and families honored the Saint by carrying on the tradition in their own homes.  For hundreds of years, up to the current day, surprising family, friends and those in need with gifts during the winter months has been carried on springing from the generosity of one man.

This may not be the most popular or accurate story of Saint Nicholas but it is my favorite and one my family retold.  Many combine Saint Nicholas and Santa Clause together celebrating them on Christmas day but I enjoy celebrating these two figures separately.  I love the tradition of leaving our stockings out for the kindly Saint to fill with traditional treats building the excitement for Christmas Day.  My image of Nicholas is similar to the traditional Father Christmas, thinner, and less decorated.  The tradition in my family was to leave gifts of meaning rather than grandeur on Saint Nicholas Day.  
These wonderful digital images can be found in ETSY shop Nukes Artisans of LA at
http://www.etsy.com/shop/nukes?ref=seller_info
So as the days grow shorter and colder, we chose the weekend after Thanksgiving, tack up the biggest sock you can find with your children.  While they are fast asleep fill the stockings with inexpensive little treats such as chocolate coins, nuts to crack, candy canes, fruits, and little gifts.  We always placed the best treat in the toe.  Most of the little gifts we gave or received had sentimental value or meaning such as a bracelet made of charms holding family photos or even an item that you already have in your possession.  The best gift I received was a beloved hand painted necklace from Germany that had been in the family through generations.  I still can remember how I felt when I opened the little box and seen the pink rose on the delicate bell.  A family tradition will carry on strong if you give it meaning it doesn't have to be expensive.
This wonderful vintage postcard was found in ETSY shop Karodens at
http://www.etsy.com/shop/Karodens?ref=seller_info
Here are some great items that would be a wonderful addition to your celebrations.

1 comment:

Food Hampers said...

What wonderful stories...I love tradition!