In the days leading up to 5 or 6 December (starting when Saint Nicholas has arrived by steamboat around mid-November), young children put their shoes in front of the chimneys and sing Sinterklaas songs. Often they put a carrot or some hay in their shoes, as a gift to St. Nicholas’ horse. In recent years the horse has been named Schimmel or Amerigo in the Netherlands and Slecht Weer Vandaag (bad weather today) in Flanders. The next morning they find a small present in their shoes, ranging from sweets to marbles or some other small toy.
When I was little we celebrated Saint Nicholas Day, I think it was a bit more simple but the idea was to remember the real Saint who started the Christmas gifting tradition.
We’d put our shoes out in front of our bedroom doors when we went to bed and found a little candy, a wind-up toy and a St. Nicholas card in the morning.
One year, I got greedy. I figured that, if I had bigger shoes, I’d get more goodies so I borrowed a pair of my Dad’s shoes and set those out. The next morning there was coal inside them. I was sad all day and went to visit my grandpa where I told how I’d been naughty. He comforted me and I forgot about the whole thing.
As if by magic, when we got home that night there were my little shoes by my door with an orange, a chocolate bear and a little toy inside. I was mystified by the whole thing because I couldn’t figure out who had put the goodies there.
This is the wonder and joy of giving. May you find your own magic today and all season long.