Today is St Nicolas Day, Nick is the predecessor of Santa Claus / Father Christmas. Back in the land of the Dutch this tradition is huge.
St Nicolas is the patriot saint of children and boats. According to the story he was a bishop from Myra. (Turkey, although these days St Nick comes from Spain by old- fashioned steamboat. Maybe he moved house…) Now in short, this darling bishop did either two things: Story A he saved three children from death (or resurrected them in version A2) or in Story B he left gold coins in the shoes of three sisters who could now pay their dowry and get married. (God forbid they ended up spinsters at the age of 25.) He also had a love for ships and once when stuck in a storm he started praying and the sea calmed down; the boat and all the passengers arrived safely. (Maybe that is what Rose and Jack should have done in that car, pray.)
So steamboat, coins (mostly in chocolate form) and a feast for children instead of children are all that remain today.
Children have welcomed St Nick into the country a couple of weeks ago, a tradition that is broadcasted yearly on national television, kicking off the celebrations. Young children will get presents in their shoe, after they have sung St Nicks songs and left carrots and hay or sugar for the horse St Nick rides on. (Yes, forget about mince pies and brandy, St Nick is the leaner version of the jolly old man in red.)
Adults get together and buy each other gifts Secret Santa style, which they will have to wrap in some arty way related to the recipient. Most importantly there are the poems, the witty filled with puns- poems about the person in all his or her glory. Board games are played, biscuits and sweets are eaten. Every family has their own traditions (my parents preferred the non-arty, just poem route especially because we had to make art-works for our school friends already!)
This year, year eight in the logbook of the captain, in midst of sorting out work and moving house, St Nicholas day approaching passed me by a little. So how surprised was I to wake up on Saturday (before leaving on an early Christmas weekend) and find a glass sweet jar in front of my bedroom door (very much like the one that I had to mournfully leave behind ages ago in the flat of the ex…) filled with chocolate coins and mini St nicks (or Father Christmases)?
Hoorah! Thank you St Nicolas!