St. Nicholas Day & Christmas Baking

Normally I would go away in the odd years for the Christmas holidays. However, last year I was in the midst of moving so as I was in the middle of unpacking, and having the back yard (garden) fenced before the ground froze, I stayed home.

Ironically, given my current circumstances, I’d had to move as I was finding living in an apartment difficult due to the shared entrance way and laundry facilities. My allergies were making it very difficult to keep myself safe. However, I promised myself last year that I would make up for missing my normal trip this year.

Unfortunately, as my allergies and reactions are currently so much worse that plan has also had to be placed on hold. For years when I stay home I have established a number of traditions. Whenever I travel anywhere I try and find a Christmas ornament that represents the places that I have visited. At Christmas I then treat myself to a real tree and delight in hanging these ornaments, taking the opportunity to reflect on all the great memories from those trips.

This year, I can’t cope with the scent of a real tree so my ornaments won’t be hung this year. Despite that I may well take an evening to unpack and repack my ornament collection, just to enjoy those memories one more time. Unfortunately, I don’t have many new ones to add this year. 

Other traditions include watching the Santa Clause movies on the weekends in December on the run up to Christmas. With ‘The Polar Express’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ also being firm favourites. 

Christmas Eve is dedicated to shopping for stocking fillers (with an agreed limit at the $ store; another tradition that I will have to miss this year) and watching “It’s a wonderful life”. 

If I can find one, I’ve attended a church service on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve services have always tended to be too much of a risk. For some reason, oranges and Christmas always seem to go together. Either as a Christingle or as a special treat in a stocking. Either way, they become a huge problem for me in the Christmas season. If I can, I try and attend a “Nine lessons and carols” service or a “Blue Christmas” service.

Traditionally, being English, Christmas dinner for me is turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing and vegetables including the infamous brussel sprouts. Personally, I don’t have the traditional Christmas pudding and Christmas cake as they’re fruit based. Though I did use to make them for years until I could no longer tolerate handling fruit peel. Over the years I’ve dropped the brussel sprouts and added in a couple of southern US dishes, from American Thanksgiving meals, such as sweet potatoe casserole and sweetcorn casserole. Dessert is usually something richly chocolate! 

When I was young, and visiting my grandparents for Christmas, Christmas dinner may well have been a curry as my Grandfather wasn’t a fan of the traditional meal for some reason. However, there would still always be a roast turkey dinner at some point over the holidays. 

This year, as I’m still housebound and needing to avoid scents and allergens as much as possible these traditions that I have developed over the year mean so much more than usual. They’re a touchstone in this weird reality that is my life currently. While so much has changed in my life this past year, these traditions can mostly remain the same. 

Today, for many western European countries is St Nicholas Day (December 6th). One year, I was actually in Bari, Italy for this day. Bari, is where he is believed to be buried so, as you can imagine, this date is a big deal there. In other parts of the world it doesn’t have as much meaning. However, one of the advantages of travelling a lot during my life is that I feel free to collect traditions from other countries along my way. 

So today, I dropped of Christmas baking at my neighbours in honour of St Nicholas Day. It took me a lot longer this year to manage the baking than it has in the past and was completed over almost a week. However, today they were gifted with peppermint creams, vanilla fudge, rum balls and gluten free sugar cookies (hopefully nobody is diabetic). My neighbours have been amazing this year. Last Christmas they picked up my snow clearing when the company I hired failed to honour their contract. This year, they made sure that I knew not to hire a contractor and that they would take responsibility for it again for me. Not only do they do an excellent job, but as they know I often have early doctors appointments they often do mine first, even before their own. Another neighbour volunteered his teenage son to cut my grass this summer, for pocket money (allowance), including picking up some of the poop that I hadn’t been able to stay on top of. 

In general they keep an eye on me and check that I’m safe. I’ve honestly never had such great neighbours. So hopefully, they’ll appreciate a little Christmas baking as a thank you for their help. 

While I am usually known as Nikki, my legal name is Nicola, which is the feminine version of Nicholas. So today, has special meaning to me. However, I realised after I dropped off the baking that I forgot to explain this in their packages. So just in case, they’re reading this:

Happy St Nicholas Day!

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