St. Nicholas Day

Whoa we are into December already!  Are you ready for this holiday season and winter break? We are kind of ready.  Both the moms come to visit this month which means happy children and possible date nights for the hubs and me.  I'm happy to have extra hands to help me keep the kids happy and to help us on a holiday craft and food making spree!  December is another month with many holidays and the first one we talked about was Saint Nicholas Day.  This holiday is one I grew up with.  Saint Nicholas Day is one that is celebrated in Germany and the kids have been discussing it in their German class at school.  Traditionally children leave shoes out and they are filled with fruit, or small treats.  In my house growing up, we had our stocking hung early and that's what "St. Nick" would leave a small gift in for us on his celebration day.   For those of you that did not grow up in a Catholic home that celebrated St. Nicholas day here's what I can tell you about the holiday. Historically speaking, there not much really known about Nicholas.  Though he's one of the most popular saints in the Green and Latin churches, his existence isn't attested by any historical document. He was probably the bishop of Myra (Turkey) sometime in the 300s.  He was best known for his generosity.  One story that popped up over and over again in my research was his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters or marriageable age.  Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man's window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married.  Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into a custom of gift-giving on the saint's feast day.

For Saint Nicholas day I thought it would be fun to leave surprises for the boys teachers.  So for our craft we created our own paper candy canes to accompany some sweets.  Since this holiday is about giving, the boys and I are going to sneak the gifts into the classroom.  We just put a few gold coin chocolates and a little note saying Happy St. Nicholas day.  We have our craft all assembled and will just have to sneak around distributing them on December 5th.   

I found these cute paper candy canes here.

Here's how we made the candy canes:

First cut paper into square shape.

 Fold paper and cut off excess.

Fold paper and cut off excess.

 

Next draw lines on the paper as shown below.

 

 Draw different color lines on paper with a 90 degree angle.

Draw different color lines on paper with a 90 degree angle.

Roll up paper and secure with tape or glue dot.

 

 Roll and secure paper.

Roll and secure paper.

Then curve one end around a marker to make the top of the candy cane.

 

 Curving the end of the candy cane.

Curving the end of the candy cane.

 Finished product.

Finished product.

For our Saint Nicholas treat we decided to make Marzipan.  At the Christmas markets I have seen St. Nicholas man-shaped breads and marzipan candies.  I chose the easier of the two for our food and found this Dutch marzipan recipe for us to try.

Marsepein (Dutch Marzipan)

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup blanched almonds (We used almond meal so we could skip the grinding)
  2. 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  3. 1 egg white
  4. ΒΌ teaspoon water (original recipe called for lemon juice)

Method:

Grind the almonds. Add the sugar, the egg white and the water. Grind the mixture very fine. Let the marzipan stand for 24 hours, under a damp cloth. Form hearts, dolls, letters, animals and other fancy figures.

From The Real Dutch Treat Cook Book, by Rie Ykema-Steenbergen, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949

 Almond meal

Almond meal

 Sugar

Sugar

 Shaping his marzipan into a hovercraft

Shaping his marzipan into a hovercraft

 A few more traditional shapes

A few more traditional shapes

The marzipan was very easy and basic.  It was almondy and sugary and much like store bought or Christmas market bought marzipan I wasn't completely impressed with it- but the children thought it was good and it was like a grainy playdough which made a fun time for all.  

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a Happy Saint Nicholas Day!