Traditions are important touchstones in families. They connect us to family values, morals, beliefs. They keep us attuned to our ancestors. One holiday tradition of the season that I treasure is St. Nicholas Day, which we celebrate every December 6th.
St. Nicholas Day is commonly celebrated in Germany and other European countries, as well as many American cities with German roots. My father was born and raised in his early years in Germany. When I was little, my ten brothers and sisters and I polished our shoes in anticipation. Picture a hoard of children kneeling on newspapers spread out on the kitchen floor, covered in polish as we shined our shoes. Delightful mayhem.
That night we set them outside our bedroom door and when we woke in the morning we discovered St. Nicholas had come and put candy in them! Sure, there were a few years waking up on December 6th with our family realizing, oops–we missed it. But, the good years….those are the ones we remember, we treasure.
Years later, when I had three children of my own, I tweaked the family tradition a bit to fit our family and the times. I told them the reason St. Nicholas came on the night of the 5th was to check on how well they took care of their toys. If he’d found them in bad shape, uh oh. Santa wouldn’t be happy.
With a single Santa warning about St. Nicholas, the children scurried off. The girls brushed the hair of their dolls while my son labored with chubby fingers to put all the pieces of his scattered toys back together. Then, when it was time to put something outside their bedroom door, I had to punt. They couldn’t put all their toys out. I told them to put their favorite outside their door. In the morning, when they rushed to see what St. Nicholas has left them, they found a bit of candy or a stuffed animal, and an ornament for the tree. A little something to get them in the Christmas spirit.
When it becomes our turn to pass the torch, it is heartwarming to witness the tradition continue in the next generation. Sometimes though, old traditions change. Some may no longer carry as much meaning in a modern world, or they’re just no longer practical for the family and loved ones. Imagine trying to light real candles on our trees today, as my father had done decades ago!
My children are now grown with their own families to raise. I wonder, will they continue the St.Nicholas tradition in their families?
I treasure the good memories of tradition that are connected to this holiday season, and I hope you do too.
What are the traditions you cherish, or what new ones are you trying to create?