Our family grew up living all over the world because of Mom and Dad’s service as U.S.diplomats. My oldest brother was born in Surabaya, Indonesia; my next brother in Milan,Italy; our middle brother in Arlington, Virginia; and my little brother and I were born in Bonn, Germany. Mom used to joke that instead of her and Dad collecting souvenirs from each country, they collected children.
Our parents infused our growing-up years many traditions from these various countries where we lived and traveled. One of my favorite customs came from the land of my birth: the big celebration of Christmas for children in those countries is December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas visits on the eve of his feast day to drop off goodies and small gifts in children’s wooden shoes placed outside their bedroom doors. Mom and Dad Americanized for us the story of St. Nicholas: it seemed that this sweet old man worked in cahoots with our Santa Claus. He came to visit during the night of December 5th, pick up our letters to Santa that we placed in our wooden shoes from Holland that we lovingly and hopefully placed outside our bedroom doors, and replace the letters with imported German chocolates, gummi bears, candy canes, and German Christmas cookies of lebküchen (spice cookies) and gingerbread cookies. Sweet St. Nicholas would then make sure to deliver our wish list letters to Santa, his dear old friend up north.
I continue this tradition still on my favorite day of the year, updated to a more adult version. St. Nicholas visits my husband’s and my home the night before, dropping off a bottle of fine cognac for Don and my beloved Frankovic eggnog for me, along with a candy cane and imported chocolates and pistachios and a small gift or two.
St. Nicholas is one of my most beloved saints and spirits of the season. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the warmth of your love.