As Thanksgiving came to an end, I started looking forward to the next holiday - just like my kids. Being in Europe, I knew that there were so many new customs to learn, and I really wanted to identify new traditions for our family so that we could truly embrace the culture of our new home. I honestly wasn't too surprised when shortly before Thanksgiving all of the Christmas decorations popped up in the malls. While there are the few holdout retailers, Christmas shopping season seems to get earlier each year. What I hadn't considered are the variations in holidays. While we have grown up waiting anxiously for Christmas Eve for the arrival of Santa Claus, St. Nicholas begins visiting children in the Grand Duchy in late November to see if they have been good or bad, and the kids need only wait until December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) to find out the verdict.
So, with St. Nicholas Day quickly approaching, it is no wonder that the stores were decked out in holiday cheer so early in our sense of the season. The grocery stores quickly filled up on the traditional cookies, candies and breads: Speculoos cookies that originated from Holland, truffles and St. Nicholas-shaped chocolate figures (I'm sure Belgium had an influence there), and Stollen from Germany (what many Americans would consider a lighter form of fruitcake). You can also find the yule log cakes commonly found in France. So, I had to ask myself - How do they celebrate St. Nicholas Day in Luxembourg? And, how does this differ from our traditional Christmas celebration in the U.S.?
|Klees'chen spotted at a Lux wine tasting.|
On the night before St. Nicholas' Day, Luxembourg children put out a plate (sometimes with carrots for Klees'chen's donkey), in hopes that he will bring them yet some more treats. In the past, that meant oranges, nuts and maybe that pair of socks they were longing for. Now days the grocery stores are chock full of every candy and cookie vendor's version of a St. Nicholas-shaped goody. As for the socks - well, they have likely been replaced by any number of toy options.
I won't go into all of the various versions of St. Nicholas Day that are celebrated in this part of Europe. If you are interested in reading up on the customs, http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/around-the-world/ gives a great description of the holiday as it is celebrated by various countries. Personally, I find the Netherlands to be the most interesting version. Furthermore, if you want to read a more humorous viewpoint of the Dutch holiday, the article written by David Sedaris http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ1202-DEC_SEDARIS is quite amusing.
Well, December 6th has come and gone. Klees'chen did manage to find us here in Luxembourg and left the boys a very chocolatey welcome to their new home. Now, the countdown has begun for the arrival of the next fat, jolly man's visit on the 24th. Thankfully this one is only accompanied by 9 tiny reindeer - one with a glowing red nose. Try explaining that story to young children when you no longer have a fireplace :)