The countdown to Christmas has really started now. Sure, I’ve put up the decorations last week, we’ve got dried fruit plumping up in brandy for our Christmas cakes, and we’ve been shopping for presents for everyone (nearly there!) But on Saturday night we had to put our cleanest shoes on the back doorstep.
This is something I’ve done every 5th of December since I can remember. My mother is Hungarian and like many Europeans, her family has kept the tradition of St Nicholas. On the eve of the feast of St Nicholas, children have to put out their freshly cleaned shoes and if they have been good during the year St Nicholas will visit overnight and fill them with sweets or presents.
I’m the eldest of five children, so it was always a very exciting evening, as we all went about picking our favourite pair of shoes. Much debate was had over if we picked a big pair of boots whether we’d get more! I’m not sure about our polishing technique, but we set about it. We set our five pairs of shoes out either on the hearth, or near a window or the front door. We also (at my parents suggestion) left a glass of milk and biscuit for St Nicholas, a carrot for his horse (apparently that’s how he got around!) and a list for him to pass onto Santa. This last bit was a bit of blending- my mother’s Hungarian & my father’s Australian Christmas traditions- to help them on their shopping trips. I remember we struggled to sleep- thinking of what we might find in our shoes. Hoping St Nicholas hadn’t caught us misbehaving and thereby earning ourselves a stone instead of a lolly. As soon as the first of us woke up, we’d shake the others awake and run out to see what St Nicholas had left us: chocolate Santa’s, lollies, nuts, popcorn, chocolate coins, and fresh cherries. Then we’d spend the morning eating chocolates & lollies instead of breakfast.
I may be a bit older now, but St Nicholas hasn’t been able to give up the habit of visiting all of us each year- he even makes sure that some little treats get to my siblings in northern Tasmania & the UK.
So now I feel like I'm on the downhill run to Christmas -when do you feel like it’s the start of the silly season?