We tried something new today in the Island Family. We celebrated St. Nicholas Day, the holiday still celebrated in many countries on December 6, when St. Nicholas stuffs children’s boots with goodies during the night while they sleep.
When I was growing up, we celebrated our own version of St. Nicholas Day the evening of by handing over a boot to our parents before dinner. After dinner, we searched the house for our boot. When we found it, inside would be a small, stocking-stuffer gift.
In years past, I’ve toyed with doing something similar, but have never done so, mainly because this requires the complexity of planning on my part.
Yesterday, however, while ruminating on the matter over lunch, I found myself thinking about the details of how to pull it off. And then, mid-afternoon, when I found myself driving by a dollar store with five extra minutes to spare in my errand-running plans, I decided that this was the year to St. Nick-It-Up.
At dinner, armed with three hidden dollar-store toys and the knowledge that I had homemade cookie dough in the freezer, I casually announced to the small people that they would need to place one boot or shoe outside the front door before they went to bed. Naturally, this started a deluge of questions, all of which I tried to answer as nonchalantly as possible. My oldest came the closest to guessing the reason.
“Mom,” he whispered to me, “I think I know what you are going to do. You’re going to put candy in the shoes, aren’t you? I heard people at my old school talking about that once.”
“Oh, no,” I answered, drawing out my words for dramatic effect. “Sorry, sweetie, it has nothing to do with candy.”
“Oh,” he said, clearly puzzled but still curious.
Then, after they were in bed, I wrapped the presents, baked and bagged a couple of chocolate chip cookies for each of them, and put them in their shoes by the fireplace. It was a bit wet out, and I didn’t want the cookies consumed during the night by stray animals, so I didn’t leave them out overnight. Afraid that the small people would somehow wake up before me if I decided to plan on placing the shoes outside again in the morning, I decided that our “St. Nick” would take the shoes, fill them, and throw them down the chimney.
When they got up in the morning, I listened for their reactions. All three small people immediately went outside, in their pajamas, and searched around the house for their shoes.
They all came back in after a minute, walked right by their shoes without noticing, and began to get themselves breakfast, clearly a little confused.
Since this was our first time and I hadn’t told them what would be happening with the shoes, I had to prompt them a little.
“Well, you know, today is St. Nicholas Day,” I started, choosing not to explain what that meant yet. “Did you notice it was a little wet out when you were outside?” They nodded. I continued, “Well, maybe your shoes had to be moved inside or something.” They started looking around, and at that point, they found the shoes.
It was fun to watch them unwrap the contents, unsure of what to expect. They all played with their toys for a few minutes, and then went back to the table to eat breakfast while I took a shower. LCB told me later that while I was in the shower, all three of them erupted in boisterous laughter when the ball in one of the toys landed in my daughter’s cereal bowl, sending the dry contents flying about the room. Most of us are usually pretty mellow first thing in the morning, so this changed the typical morning tone considerably.
With the cookies, I told the kids they could eat them whenever they wanted, curious to see what they’d do, since we usually save what we call “special treats” for after dinner. The oldest decided it would be prudent to save his for the end of the day, the youngest decided to eat exactly four little bites right away for reasons that remain unclear, and the middle child, in one fluid motion as he left for school, put on his backpack, crammed a giant bite of cookie in his mouth, and ran out the door.
So I guess, for the first time in their young history, two of my children can say they had cookies for breakfast.