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St. Nicholas, Nature Tables, and Slippers

7 December 2007

During my childhood, in Belgium children received gifts from Saint Nicholas (after leaving the slippers out), on the 6th of December. In the U.S., children would receive their gifts on the 25th of December (under the tree), from Santa Claus. Hmmmmm. Now, my parents were willing to shift the big gift giving to the 25th, but they did want to incoporate the whole Saint Nicholas thing, too. So, growing up, from the 6th to the 25th, we would sing the Saint Nicholas song every night before bed*, leave our slippers out, and find a small treat tucked in our slippers in the morning. (We never really had stockings at Christmas, seeing as we had gotten trinket-y things for 20 days in our slippers.)

With my kids, I’ve changed the slipper treats from chocolate and other goodies to things like stickers, pencils, hair ribbons (and a few candies, to be sure). We started singing last night, and this morning, this is what they found:

“What did you get in your slippers?” I asked Impera (it’s a little game we play at Christmas, we all pretend…).

“Saint Nicholas gave me a llama,” she replied.

That’s no llama, that’s Saint Nicholas’s mule, who helps him deliver the treats (Black Peter is not a part of our version of the tradition) to the children! (This morning, the poor mule’s baskets were laden with two chokotoff candies for each girl, his legs rather splayed under him. I proposed we set two candies in front of him for the photo shoot, and he gratefully accepted this offer.)

The theme of this Saint Nicholas season will be: gathering props for our Nature Table.** I’ve been wanting to have a Nature Table for many years now, and in fact have made several projects from The Nature Corner and Feltcraft. We put together something this Fall, gathering things during our walks and hikes (you can see it here, complete with notes), and now it’s time to get a Christmas/Winter table together. I hope the girls will enjoy getting the figurines in their slippers, because I know I’ll be having fun putting them together. I’ll try to remember to post a few more shots as the table is filled with personages and little props.

*I’ll try to track it down for you. I don’t have the time right now, unfortunately.

**You can do a search on Nature Table on Google, and you’ll find some people (those same conservative evangelicals who have no patience for any sort of non-Christian spirituality) saying that this Waldorfian idea is rather neo-pagan (i.e., honoring the spirituality of nature). To which I reply: Yeah, so – what’s the problem, exactly?

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