I have always wanted to include the winter celebrations of other cultures into our holiday season. One year I went to one of my sister's friend's house on St. Nicholas Day, and they had made special bread and stew and each person in the family had a pair of painted wooden shoes into which St. Nicholas had left presents. I'd love to have wooden shoes like that for everyone in my family (though I don't really want to add another gift-getting holiday to the season).
I checked out a few "Christmas in..." books from the library, and am trying to incorporate some other traditions into ours (my personal favorite is Krampus, the devil-like character who accompanies St. Nicholas and either whips bad children with a willow-switch or takes them away in his basket/bag and throws them into the fiery pits of hell--depending on how cranky their mother is feeling when they won't get ready for bed).
My plan is to celebrate one holiday every weekend--St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Winter Solstice, Christmas Eve and Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve and Day and Epiphany/Twelfth Night. Conveniently, many of these holidays fall on Sunday this year. In the future we may need to celebrate "St. Nicholas Day, observed." That's OK too.
To start out St. Nicholas Day Sunday, the boys headed straight out to play in the new snow
(Imagine loving snow so much you were out trying to sled at 7:15 a.m.??!--instead of so lazy you take the picture out the window.)
Later we made Spekulatius cookies, which are soo delicious I will need to invest in Spekulatias molds like these for the future (I just used the Joy of Cooking recipe, but there are several others online; and I just used cookie cutters since I don't have the forms--and we ate them so fast I never even took pictures!). I'd LOVE to find one shaped like Krampus! In the past, I've done Christmas cookies in a big rush a day or two before (I think even once on the day after--but that may have been candy). I've also (before I had kids) made a ton ahead of time and frozen them for gifts. However, we don't have a lot of freezer space, and I kind of like the idea of making a different kind of cookie each weekend related to the celebration and just eating them, instead of saving them for a day when you have too much to eat anyway. Next week, for St. Lucia Day, it will be gingerbread and, if I get really ambitious, saffron rolls. I'll keep you posted.
Then we went out and got out tree (more on that later this week) and went to the caroling/tree lighting at the Town Office and put the lights and some of the ornaments onto our own tree after dinner. All--n-all not a bad first St. Nicholas Day celebration, even without wooden shoes or Spekulatusforms.