Tuesday, December 6, 2022

St. Nicholas Day and A Festive Yuletide


A bit late to the party, but better late than never. Right? Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

Today is St. Nicholas Day so I thought I would share a little about the tradition and the legend.

Saint Nicholas Day: The Feast of Sinterklaas

At the beginning of the Advent season is St. Nicholas Day (December 6—or December 19 on the Julian calendar).

St. Nicholas was a bishop who was known for his good deeds, especially for the needy and children. He often gave generously and anonymously (without anyone knowing the gifts were from him). Nicholas was officially recognized as a saint in the 800s and in the 1200s Catholics in France began celebrating Bishop Nicholas Day on December 6.

Many countries in Europe celebrate the Feast of Sinterklaas—also known as St. Nicholas—starting on the 5th of December, the eve of the day, by sharing candies, chocolate letters, small gifts, and riddles. Children put out their shoes with carrots and hay for the saint’s horse the evening prior, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. (Sound familiar?)

In Belgium and the Netherlands, a fellow dressed as St. Nicholas would arrive by ship on December 6 and ride a white horse (or a donkey) through the towns, handing out gifts. It was the Dutch pronunciation of his name—Sinterklaas—as well as Dutch traditions that made their way to America. These led the way to the name Santa Claus and the tradition of gift-giving.

For many European countries, this simple gift-giving day in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the meaning of Christmas itself.

Saint Nicholas Traditions

You may find it interesting that some of our Santa Claus traditions truly came from St. Nicholas Day. If your children are confused about Santa Claus, perhaps tell them the story of St. Nicholas who was a real saint who bestowed gifts onto others to demonstrate his faith.


Leaving out Shoes

The most common way to celebrate St. Nicholas Day is to leave shoes out for St. Nicholas to place small gifts in. Socks are fine, too.

Traditionally, the gifts are simply small candies or coins—little items that bring a lot of joy for children. If you wish to celebrate this tradition, leave shoes or wooden clogs by the door on the evening of December 5.

In the morning, the shoes will be filled with small delights (candy canes, spare change, foreign coins).

The Candy Cane

The candy cane is also a symbol of St. Nicholas, representing his staff. Add small candy canes to the shoes or decorate your tree! We won’t tell if you eat a few candies on the way!

Sinterklaas Cookies

A traditional treat on St. Nicholas Day is Spicy Sinterklaas Cake, also known as Speculaas. These are spicy, ginger cookies, often baked in a mold the shake of St. Nicholas!


Other traditions equate St. Nicholas with Santa Claus, which means that St. Nicholas comes on the night of December 24, leaving presents for children to open on December 25. 

St. Nicholas History: Who Was the Real St. Nicholas?

In the 3rd century, in the village of Patara in Turkey (part of Greece in those days), a wealthy couple gave birth to a boy they named Nicholas. Tragically, while Nicholas was young, an epidemic took the lives of both of his parents.

Having been raised as a Christian, he dedicated his life to service, sold all of his belongings, and used his inheritance to help the poor and infirm. Eventually, Nicholas became a bishop, and his reputation for helping children, sailors, and other people in need spread far and wide. For this, the Roman emperor Diocletian persecuted and imprisoned him (and other religious men)—but only until the Romans realized that they had so filled their prisons with clergy that they had no place to put the thieves and murderers. So the Romans let the religious men go free.

Upon his release, Nicholas continued his charity work until he died on December 6, A.D. 343. It was said that a liquid that formed in his grave had healing powers. This and other legends about Nicholas fostered devotion to him and inspired traditions still practiced today.
Is St. Nicholas Really Santa Claus?

There are a few legends of St. Nicholas which relate to the story of Santa Claus—one about gift-giving and the other about children.

In one tale, a poor man had three daughters and no dowry for any of them, thus eliminating their chance at marriage and risking their being sold into slavery instead. Mysteriously, as each girl came of marriageable age, a bag of gold (or, in some versions, a ball of gold or an orange) was lobbed through a window and landed in a sock or shoe near the hearth. The unknown gift-giver was presumed to have been Nicholas, and the situation inspired the placement by the fireplace of stockings or shoes, into which gifts were placed.

Another legend dates from long after Nicholas’s passing. In his home village, during a celebration on the anniversary of Nicholas’s death, a young boy was kidnapped to become a slave to a neighboring region’s emir. The family grieved for a year, and on the anniversary of the boy’s disappearance, they refused to leave their home. Good thing: As the story goes, Nicholas appeared, spirited the boy away from his captors, and deposited him in his house—with the gold cup from which he was serving the emir still in his hand. This once again established Nicholas as a patron and protector of children.

Nicholas was celebrated as a saint within a century of his death and today is venerated as the patron not only of children but also of sailors, captives, travelers, marriageable maidens, laborers—even thieves and murderers. He is the patron of many cities and regions, and thousands of churches are named for him around the world.

(reblogged from Almanac)


A Festive Yuletide...join me in celebrating the season. As usual, I will be sharing Weekend Baking, Weekend Lit, Weekend Crafting...maybe even Friday Baking and Movies. Also, book reviews and other bookish posts...and Christmas Around the World posts. Gift ideas. Just all around festive cheer for one of my favorite times of year!

With my late start this year, it's obvious I won't be sharing as much, but I will try to share as much as I can. 

Stay tuned for my review of Velvet Snowflakes by Barbara Briggs Ward, author of The Reindeer Keeper, The Snowman Maker, The Candle Giver, and The Tin Cookie Cutter.

Always in spirit...



Monday, November 21, 2022

2022 Yuletide Spirit Reading Challenge and Readathon - Festive reading time!

It's officially November 21st (in the Eastern time zone) and so it begins!

Remember...

Dates: November 21, 2022 through January 6, 2023

Three ways to participate:

Challenge - Pick a level
Readathon - read as much (or as little) as you want
Participate in both!

Everything else you need to know can be found in the sign-up post here.

Hashtag across social media: #YuletideSpirit
  
THE PRIZE: The first person to post a review (must be from a book started on or after November 21) in the review linky (I'll have it posted later on today) will win a $15 charitable donation to human rights organization of their choice, such as the Ukraine Relief, ACLU, Boys and Girls Club, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Amnesty International, It Gets Better, Planned Parenthood, or another human rights organization of your choice (food banks, homeless shelters would also apply), perhaps your local chapter or a local organization. This giveaway is open internationally. Note: I will not donate to any organization that does not believe that all are equal, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation.

So far there are no other prizes, but I'll let you know if I receive any donations. If so, there will either be a prize page, or I will share the prize(s) on the mid-event check-in.

HAVE FUN!!!

The linky below is the same one as the sign up linky. If you do a starting line/goal post, just add your link again, but be sure to put "goal post" beside your name, i.e. Michelle/True Book Addict (goal post). Note: If you're just signing up, you can do it here on this post. It's the same linky.

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Always in spirit...



Sunday, November 13, 2022

2022 Yuletide Spirit Reading Challenge and Readathon

The holidays are upon us again! Time to sign up for the Yuletide Spirit Reading Challenge and Readathon co-event! (Yes, the site, and event, title have had a minor makeover)

Dates: November 21, 2022 through January 6, 2023

Three ways to participate:
  1. Challenge - Pick a level
  2. Readathon - read as much (or as little) as you want
  3. Participate in both!
Regarding the reading of Christmas books, for the readathon, you do not have to read only Christmas books. I am always reading regular genres along with Christmas books during the season. Please do try to read at least one though. 🎄

For the reading challenge, these must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, children's books (we even have a level for them!), etc.

Reading Challenge Levels:
--Candy Cane
: read 1 book
--Mistletoe: read 2-4 books
--Christmas Tree: read 5 or 6 books, or more (this is the fanatic level!)

Additional levels:

--Fa La La La Films: watch a bunch or a few Christmas movies...it's up to you!
--Visions of Sugar Plums: read books with your children this season and share what you read

*the additional levels are optional, you still must complete one of the main reading levels above

I will have a review linky posted here on Yuletide Spirit the day the challenge starts. You will find it in the menu at the top of the blog.

Sign up in the linky below. This linky will be the same one on this site and over at Seasons of Reading. No need to sign up both places (though you can leave a comment here and over there if you are indeed participating in both)For this readathon in particular, we will do a wrap-up linky, in keeping with the regular process for the reading challenge.

THE PRIZE: The first person to post a review (must be from a book started on or after November 21) in the review linky will win a $15 charitable donation to human rights organization of their choice, such as a Ukraine relief charity, ACLU, Boys and Girls Club, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Amnesty International, It Gets Better, Planned Parenthood, or another human rights organization of your choice (food banks, homeless shelters would also apply), perhaps your local chapter or a local organization. Animal rights or rescue organizations are another option. This giveaway is open internationally. Note: I will not donate to any organization that does not believe that all are equal, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation.

Final notes: 
You can participate even if you don't have a blog. Just link up with your Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (and just post your updates from whichever venue you choose) AND don't forget our Facebook groupFacebook Page, our Goodreads group, and our Instagram...and our Discord.

New event hashtag: #YuletideSpirit  You can also use #readathon and/or #readingchallenge

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
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Always in spirit...



Monday, October 31, 2022

It's Halloween! Guising, the origin of trick-or-treating


Guising

Of the remaining traditions of Samhain (SOW-in or SAH-win), the most famous has to be Guising. The meaning of which suddenly becomes clear when you know that the origins of guising lie in dressing up children (and adults) to disguise them from the returning dead who might seek to exact revenge on anyone who had wronged them in their life.

Disguised children could wander among the spirits of the dead visiting the feasting houses on Halloween, where they would receive an offering of nuts or fruit to ward off evil. Now, Halloween guising is still a common practice, although fruit and nuts would be less popular among the youth of today. Guising in Scotland consists of kids dressing up and singing to willing doors in exchange for sweets and money.



Scots Tablet, or Fudge

Most Scottish households keep supplies of fudge, often homemade, for the guisers who come knocking at the door on Halloween night. This is a foolproof recipe:

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups/2 lb/900 g sugar
1 cup/8 fl oz/225 ml milk
1/4 cup/2 oz/55 g butter
2/3 cup/7 oz/200 g sweetened, condensed milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Method
  • Put the sugar, milk, and butter in a large, saucepan and stir over a very low heat until the sugar is completely melted. There should be no scratching sound as you stir.
  • Bring to a boil and add the condensed milk carefully. Keep stirring all the time and cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Take the pan off the heat and test the fudge. Drop a teaspoonful into a glass of cold water and wait for it to cool, then feel the consistency. If it forms a soft ball, the fudge is ready. If it does not, return the pan to the heat and simmer for an additional 5 minutes: test again. Don't overcook.
  • When the soft ball stage is reached, take the pan off the heat, then stir in a few drops of vanilla extract and pour the fudge into a shallow buttered pan. While it is still slightly warm, mark it into squares with a knife and leave it to cool.
  • This produces about 3 lb (1.3 kg) of fudge, which is usually all eaten by the end of the day. Scots Tablet is extremely versatile and you can add different flavorings, including chocolate powder, raisins, or liquor (such as dark rum) to make your own variation.
Source: The Real Halloween: Ritual and Magic for Kids and Adults by Sheena Morgan

HAPPY HALLOWEEN...BLESSED SAMHAIN!!!

Our Jack-o'-lantern


Always in spirit...