St Nicholas was born in the 4th century in Turkey. He was a very generous person and after his parents died he gave everything he owned to charity. He became a bishop, which is why our paper doll wears a bishop’s mitre. One of the most famous stories about him is this one:
There was a man who had three daughters. He was poor and could not afford a dowry for them to get married. St Nicholas found out and he dropped three bags of money down the chimney for the girls. This was their dowry.
This story might be the reason why Santa Claus is supposed to come down the chimney to deliver his presents.
St Nicholas is now the patron saint of many people. He is first and foremost the patron saint of children. He is also the patron saint of sailors and prisoners. Along with St Andrew he is the patron saint of Russia.
Our St Nicholas’ day celebrations start the night before. Each of us places a pair of shoes in some prominent place. Our St Nicholas is a very fussy saint and insists on us having clean shoes. During the night St Nicholas (or Juliet) comes and fills the shoes. In our house we use chocolate coins that you can buy easily at the shops but you can fill the shoes with anything. Some people use other sorts of sweets, or a small gift, or even real money. In the morning there is a rush for the shoes to see what St Nicholas has put in them this year.
Every year Etcetera and I make our special St Nicholas day biscuits, Speculatius. They are spicy biscuits with yummy nuts in them. These biscuits are delicious and very more-ish. I can’t imagine having St Nicholas day without them.
If you would like to make these biscuits too, then here is the recipe:
1-cup butter (approx 250 grams)
1-cup lard (approx 250 grams)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2-cups brown sugar
4 ½ cups sifted flour
½ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ cup chopped nuts (any sort)
Cream the butter, lard and sugar. Add sour cream alternately with sifted dry ingredients. Stir in the nuts. Knead the dough into rolls and refrigerate overnight. Roll the dough very thin and cut into shapes. Bake in moderate oven (180 degrees) for 10-15 minutes.
We hope you enjoy making the biscuits and we also hope that you feel inspired to try making your own St Nicholas day traditions as we have done.