Friday, December 5, 2008

St. Nicholas And The Nobility of Tradition

St. Nicholas comes tonight; his feast is December 6th, so it is on the evening of the 5th that little children everywhere (or at least those who descend from Europe, the reputed origin of Nicholas) put out their boots in hopes of receiving gifts from the Sainted Nick. My boys are too old for him, really, but he kindly fills their boots anyway (and those are some jumbo boots these days).

He is the spirit of generosity that heralds the holidays, and he is a part of my tradition. My German mother ushered him into our lives, and we always woke to shoes (one each) full of big brown walnuts and huge red apples, as well as little German chocolates and tiny gifties. In thirty years St. Nick hasn't changed all that much, although some of the wee toys are quite techno and modern.

In the days when my children were small, I labored to make St. Nicholas' Day so special that I sometimes took the day off of work just to be sure I was there when my little boys toddled in and dumped out their boots to examine their treasures.

This year, to show how cruelly time changes things, my eldest son must get up early to take his high school entrance exam. He may even scoff at the notion of putting out his boot at all (but he'll do it on the off chance that something good will go in there). So off he will go, and his brother will have to sit and munch chocolate by himself.

Each year the holidays take a slightly different shape as my children grow up and away from me; and yet I know that the traditions I labored to continue when they were small will be the same traditions that they want to continue, some day, for their own children.

So, despite the fact that my husband has no interest in helping me and my children will probably not shower me with gratitude, I will wait until everyone is sleeping so that I may channel St. Nicholas and put chocolate into shoes in his name. Gee, when you say it like that it seems silly.

That's true of all traditions, though--taken out of context they are quite bizarre. But they are the threads that sew families and peoples together, and I will keep weaving them into the lives of my children.


Mark Combes said...

Your boys might outwardly scoff at your tradition, but somewhere deep within them they understand, by this subtle reminder, that they are loved. My mom used to do stuff like this, and I will never forget the feeling those gestures had on me.

Julia Buckley said...

Well, thanks, Mark. My older one is definitely in the father-as-preferred-parent stage, but I'm hoping he'll remember this fondly one day. :)

G.M. Malliet said...

Mark is right. They scoff now, but they will thank you later.

Keith Raffel said...

I'm putting my boots out tonight in hopes that St. Julia will stop by.

Julia Buckley said...

It takes a lot of treats to fill an adult boot. :)

Thanks for the feedback, GM and Keith!

jbstanley said...

Twenty years from now, when the boys have their own families, they will begin to reconstruct the traditions you founded. It will give them great pleasure to hide chocolate in the shoes of their kids and they will recall what a wonderful and generous mother you were when they perform this act.

Jess Lourey said...

Ah, they are growing up and away from us, aren't they Julia? And I firmly believe these traditions are what keeps them safe in life because they remind them of family, even when we're not there, and the importance of behaving like your mother is always watching as well as the security of family.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, JB and Jess. Yes, how big they are getting, but they are fun in a different way now.

And much as I thought they'd think this was weird, they have basically spent the whole day wearing their new thick socks and playing with their (bargain bin) flashlights and eating lots of chocolate, which they consistently accuse each other of stealing. :)