Today is the feast of St. Nicholas!
The tradition of leaving one's shoes out for St. Nicholas to fill on December 6th stems from a tale about a poor man who had three daughters. Since this man could not afford dowries for his daughters, they would have had to be sold into slavery. But during the night, St. Nicholas paid the house a secret visit, and the man woke to find coins in his shoes. This happened three times, providing the man with the needed dowry for his daughters, and they were spared from slavery. (Read more about St. Nicholas here and here.)
In my family, we celebrate St. Nicholas Day by leaving shoes out the night before, and waking to see what presents St. Nicholas has left in our shoes. It is a nice, anticipatory feast during Advent, and we look forward to it every year.
Now, since I'm a little under the weather with a head cold and I can't think of words to write an actual blog post, I'm going to post a Christmas story instead, one I wrote awhile back and never subbed because, honestly, it's not really publishable. Here you go!
CHRISTMAS IN FIVE SENSES
She tasted Christmas, in the sweetness of a sugar cookie. She sneaked icing, dough, and chocolate and let it all mix on her tongue. She decided, Christmas is hot cocoa and whipped cream stirred with a peppermint stick. Christmas is the taste of cold snow on her lips.
She smelled Christmas, the butter, sugar, and flour mixed in a bowl, cookies baking in the oven, and the clear, sharp smell of snow. She said, “Christmas is the smell of the pine tree in the corner, the aroma of lighted Advent candles, and the clean snowy breeze coming through that opened window.”
She felt Christmas, the cookie dough under her fingernails. She poked her palms on prickling pine needles, and fingered the rough, glitter-crusted lining on an ornament. Christmas, she thought, is the touch of snowflakes on my face, paint on my fingers as I help paint this nativity scene on the frozen windowpane. Christmas is the warmth of fire thawing my numb fingers, the touch of the chiseled, porcelain statues of St. Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the sheep, and donkey, in my hands.
She heard Christmas, the crackle of wrapping paper as someone wrapped a present, followed by the snick of tape cut off a spool. She heard the clink of cookie cutters clattering on the counter. Christmas is "Silent Night” playing on the radio, a timer going off on the stove, a spoon racketing off the ceramic side of a mixing bowl. Christmas is the sound of wind blowing past the window and rattling the sills, of flames crackling on the hearth. Christmas is the sound of a teakettle whistling on the stove, ready to prepare a pot of hot chocolate. Christmas is the silence in the evening when the world goes still.
She saw Christmas. There was the decorated tree standing in the corner, lights blinking on and off on pine boughs and gleaming off the silver, blue, and red ornaments. She saw the Nativity scene painted on the windows, the Advent wreath wrapped in green ivy and red beads on the table. She decided Christmas is red and green garland strung in the entryway between the kitchen and living room, Christmas cards displayed on the decorated tree, snow piling in mounds in the yard, and snowflakes filling the sky with a kaleidoscope of diamond glints. Christmas was the snowmen standing in every yard, white lights illuminating houses on the block, Santa Claus’s ringing bells at every store.
She lived Christmas. Christmas is the glory of Midnight Mass, the candles and bells rejoicing Christ’s birth. Christmas is a drive home through a silent night, a stop at a gas station for coffee and a chocolate bar. Christmas is a couple hours’ sleep, an early morning vigil, huddled in blankets on the couch, excited gazes fixed upon a mound of presents beneath pine boughs.
Christmas is the lighted white Christ Candle, “Adeste Fidelis” sung around the Advent wreath, the Christ Child laid in His manger. Christmas is sausage and buns, orange juice, and chocolate. Christmas is a noise and fury, and joy. Christmas is digging through Christmas stockings, the excitement of opening the first present.
Christmas is the Babe in the manger.
Christmas is Christ’s birth.