Wednesday, December 6, 2017

St.Nicholas Day


Saint Nicholas Day, December 6th is a festival for children that is more popular in Europe than in the United States. St. Nicholas is a saint who has a reputation as a bearer of gifts. The American Santa Claus, as well as the Anglo-Canadian and British Father Christmas, derive from these legends. "Santa Claus" is itself derived from the Dutch word Sinterklaas.

Traditionally, on the evening of December 5th, before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the fireplace chimney of a coal-fired stove, fireplace or next to some central heating unit. A shoe with a carrot or some hay in it and a bowl of water nearby "for Sinterklaas' horse," may also be left out. Children often sing a Sinterklaas song. The next day children hope to find some candy or a small present in their shoes.

Typical Sinterklaas treats include: hot chocolate, mandarin oranges, pepernoten, letter-shaped pastry filled with almond paste or chocolate letter (the first letter of the child's name made out of chocolate), speculaas (sometimes filled with almond paste), chocolate coins and marzipan figures, kruidnoten (a type of shortcrust biscuit or gingerbread biscuits) and a figurine of Sinterklaas made of chocolate and wrapped in colored aluminum foil.

Poems can still accompany bigger gifts as well. Instead of such gifts being brought by Sinterklaas, family members may draw names for an event comparable to Secret Santa. Gifts are to be creatively disguised (for which the Dutch use the French word "surprise"), and are usually accompanied by a humorous poem which often teases the recipient for well-known bad habits or other character deficiencies.

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
A visit from St. Nicholas or Santa would not be complete unless a plate of cookies and a glass of milk were left out for him on Christmas Eve plus carrots for 'Sinterklaas' horse.
Cook's notes:
Chocolate Crackled Cookies so good even the grown-ups will like them. Using Saigon cinnamon elevates the cookie recipe to a whole new level.
Recipe from mccormick.com and makes about 2-1/2 dozen cookies.
Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, divided
  • 1 tsp. cream
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 stick of butter or 1/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pad. 
  • Mix flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Set aside. 
  • Melt 8 oz. of the chocolate with cream in microwave. I used power high for 12 seconds, stirred and then did another 12 seconds or until melted. Chop rest of chocolate into small pieces and set aside. 
  • Beat butter, sugars on medium until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla, mix well. Add  melted chocolate and beat until will mixed. Gradually add in flour on low speed until well combined. Stir in reserved chopped pieces of chocolate and walnuts. 
  • Chill dough for 30 to 45 minutes for easier handling. 
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Flour hands and roll dough into balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Bake for about 8 minutes until cookies are set and slightly cracked on top. 

While I waited for the cookies to cool I enjoyed a new book that arrived just in time for St. Nicholas Day. 
The last few years I have been a book reviewer for the annual Multicultural Children's Book Day. The 2018 event is scheduled for January 27th.   

"The St. Nicholas Day Snow" picture book was sent to me by author Charlotte Riggle. A more in depth review will be posted on Ever Ready in early January. But for now it couldn't be a more perfect book for today honoring St. Nicholas and the traditions associated with him. 

The book is geared for ages 4-8 and is quite informative. There are several storylines running concurrently. It's the night before Saint Nicholas Day and Catherine is excited about Elizabeth coming over for the night. Elizabeth's Nana is in the hospital and her parents have gone to be with her. The girls bake cookies, catch snowflakes while watching a  snowstorm develop. Threads of St. Nicholas's traditions are woven throughout the story. The sweet story with its intricate detailed illustrations by R.J Hughes will engage the reader. Each page features a different church with the name of St. Nicholas from all over the world and its location.  Even adults will learn something from this book. At the back of the book the reader will find additional information on St. Nicholas traditions. Catherine and Elizabeth made snowball cookies. Lucky us, the readers, the recipe is included in the book.  

Check back in early January for a detailed review of the book with author and illustrator information and previously published books and yes, Ever Ready will be making Catherine and Elizabeth's Snowball Cookies.  

3 comments:

  1. The teacher in you shines in your posts. I always learn so much from you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for sharing about St. Nicholas Day on The Blogger's Pit Stop! Those cookies look delicious! Roseann from www.thisautoimmunelife.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great activities, baking cookies and reading a book, to tie into St. Nicholas Day!

    ReplyDelete

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