Wednesday, December 4, 2013

BAM! nailing st. nick's eve

It should come as no surprise to those who know me and love me that the rinky-dink holiday gifts are a struggle for me.  Easter baskets filled with dollar store trinkets make me cringe--all I can think of is the sheer WASTE and PLASTIC POLLUTION and THEY'LL PLAY WITH IT FOR A MINUTE BEFORE IT'S JUNK.  I'm hands-down the absolute WORST at small-scale gift giving.

Oh, I nail it on the big stuff.  Mr. D got a vintage and fully functioning pinball machine last year for Christmas.  Team Testosterone has been lavished with Legos and bicycles and a mini-four-wheeler and Airsoft guns.  But asking me to stuff a stocking is like asking me to speak fluent Chinese or rewire the basement.  Ain't gonna happen, kids.

The problem is that we live surrounded by Dutch people.  This normally isn't a problem, Dutch people are generally neat and tidy and hardworking.  Dutch people have all kinds of quaint traditions brought over from the Old Country, like planting tulip bulbs in their gardens.  But Dutch people also celebrate St. Nicholas Eve.  I'm not clear on the origins of this tradition, but basically it's a "starter" for Christmas.  Every year on December 5th all the kids living around these parts hang their stockings and they wake up on December 6th to stockings chock-full of treats and toys. 


No, I am not kidding you.

And there is no way you can send your kid to school around here and ignore that tradition because you end up with sad, neglected-feeling kids who think Santa hates them and their Christmas will suck rocks because if they can't even manage to get anything good in the starter stocking, the prospects for a decent haul under the tree in twenty more days are bleak.

St. Nicholas Eve isn't some made-up commercial enterprise like that Elf on the Shelf (which we do NOT do, nor do we do leprechaun gifts).  This is an Old Country Tradition that's been around for over a century, as integral to the Christmas season as putting up a tree or baking cookies. These Dutch people have been doing it forever and they'll continue to do it forever and if you live in their midst, you either join in or come up with a good explanation of why you don't.  I've got a 9-year-old who still believes, so we go along with it for now.  (But kids, mommy is NOT going to keep doing this like some of your friends' families.  You will NOT get St. Nick's gifts mailed to you at college.  Actually, you won't even get St. Nick's gifts once you get into high school because I'm a good sport and all, but that is pushing my limit.)  (Seriously, people around here even mail St. Nick's stockings to their college kids.  I am not kidding you.)

The first barrier with this holiday is remembering the date.  You definitely do NOT want to forget and have your kid head to school December 6th and hear all about everyone else's stocking loot and come home in tears.  But this is such a confusing and random holiday that every year I have to ask, "So, which day is St. Nick's?"  You hang your stocking on the 5th, find it full on the 6th.  That's important to know.  Around here, most of the stores have discreet little cards explaining this posted by the cash registers which has helped me and my offspring avoid trauma on December 6th.

The second barrier is filling the stocking.  Here's the thing:  there's always some asshole parent who sets the bar unimaginably high.  They give their kid an iPod or video games or some other big-deal-gift that really shouldn't show up until December 25th.  The trick is finding that parent and busting their kneecaps so it never, ever happens again making Santa seem comparably generous while not killing your Christmas budget.  That said, I've failed miserably anyway because other kids get fun toys and gobs of candy while Team Testosterone gets a book and a plastic candy cane filled with M&Ms.   I just can't manage to figure out "fun stuff" to fill a stocking.  I don't do goodie bags at birthday parties for the same reason--buying trivial crap goes against my nature.  Every year I stand in the aisles of Target dismissing my options because they're a) too expensive, b) too cheap, c) too ridiculous, d) too much like an actual Christmas present. And I know I have to go against my nature so the youngest one thinks it's Santa and not his practical mama filling the stocking, but I can't think like that so it's always a book and candy.

But this year--OH, THIS YEAR I NAILED IT.

Team Testosterone is getting candy, but for that something extra, that trinket toy to make their eyes light up with joy?  They are getting





  1. YES!!!!! I was honestly just googling WHEN to hang the dang stockings. I don't know why I get confused by this every year since I've been celebrating St. Nick's since my birth. It must be a European thing because we are in an all German area and everyone celebrates it around here too.
    Anyway, I always give them little trinkets like ornaments, Hot Wheels, fun pens/pencils, silly puddy, and candy. It does really bite when parents have to go and ruin it by buying their kids a Kindle or something. Grrr...

    Anyway, the silly string is perfect! Great idea! Love it!
    And thanks for clearing up the dates for me! :)

  2. After the boys get their hands on those cans, you'll probably be nominated for the Greatest Mom Ever hall of fame.

    I freaking love Christmas stockings. Hands down, they're my favorite part of giving every year. I love it so much that I usually have too many things to stuff into those stockings, which unlike a TARDIS, are massive on the inside.

    I've also trained my family to treat me well in the stocking department. Yes, the adults have stockings too. When our girls figured out the deal with Santa, we explained how he used to be a real saint and when he died, people continued with his good works. So now that the girls were in the know, they were allowed to participate too. Now, every year, they're each given a small budget and turned loose in a store to shop for the rest of us. On Christmas Eve, everyone sneaks around and fills stockings when no one else is looking. It's so much fun.

  3. In defense of the Elf on the Shelf, it is apparently a Southern thing, because people my age here did it when they were kids. AND the woman and her grown twin daughters who wrote the story go to my church and started the whole thing as a cottage industry. One of the daughters was a host on QVC or the Home Shopping Network and that's how it took off. AND it employs a boatload of local people.

    Thankfully, I had never heard of it when my kids were small so that was one less thing to mess with. I'd never heard of the St. Nicolas Eve tradition until I started reading your blog, but I too dislike all that junky stuff. I always have great intentions of filling stockings, but lo....every year there they are, hanging by the fireplace empty, swinging in the wind.

  4. My mom grew up in Germany, and they also celebrate St. Nicolas Day, BUT --you put a shoe in the window, and you get a few small gifts in the shoe. We usually got a coloring book and a Christmasy candy. There were no stocking put up or filled. In fact, when my mom was little, her brother once decided to put his big winter boot in the window, and her parents filled it with switches. (Then they hid one of his normal small shoes under his bed with the goodies.)

    However, as a kid we also didn't do stockings, so when I got married was the first time I ever had a stocking. And I LOVE stockings!! I love picking up little fun things for Emma and Rob (but I do not choose plastic trinket stuff, nor do I participate in birthday goody bags --I agree with you on all that plastic junk). This year I've had a lot of fun picking up stocking stuff on Etsy (yes, it's more expensive but it's also more original), including two pocket-size notebooks for Rob with covers that read "Sh*t I Have To Get Done". :-)

  5. YES!!!

    Every year without fail, that is hands down the BEST present she gets, ever. Major mom win.

    I don't do goodie bags either.

  6. BAM!!!!

    H-J was born in Germany on Dec. 5th, and we brought him home on Dec. 6th -- our very first St. Nikolaus Tag (day). My neighbors thought we should have named him Nick (we didn't). But I will never forget St. Nikolaus Tag because it is the morning after H-J's birthday.
    A few years ago I had a brain blossom (the opposite of a brain fart): German Santa delivers the wish list to American Santa! So they must have their lists completed and set in their shoes by the door before they go to bed on Dec. 5th. (That helps immensely with Christmas shopping.)
    What to put into those shoes is a bit harder... a bit of chocolate is nice, but then what? Maybe a snack-pack of nuts or gummi bears. When DVDs were new, I began replacing our favorite Christmas videos with the DVD version. This year's gift is a joint gift: a carton of egg nog. I've hidden it in the beer fridge in the garage until it is time to set it out.

  7. Oh my gosh so funny. I also hate those dumb little trinkets. I don't do goodie bags, I refuse. I get so irritated when the kids go to the dentist and they pick up that little crap from the bins on their way out. Really, really, really, you are twelve do you need another super ball.

  8. oh man. you did. you nailed it. and soon you will be picking it out of your hair....

  9. I am laughing at Michelle's comment "do you need another super ball" because when my 16 year old cleaned out his room I couldn't believe how many super balls we found!

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  11. LOVED that random cuss word "asshole" left near the end of the story...BAM, that's how it should be done!

  12. Mandarin oranges and chocolate coins and little edam cheeses where my big favorites to put in my children's shoes. Also, Christmas ornaments for the tree. They got there bigger gifts from the basket or sack that Sinterklaas left behind.

  13. This post made me like you even more. I have never given goody bags. It annoys me to no end when the kids come home from a party or school (OH, how I don't appreciate the parents who send goody bags home through school on their child's birthday.) The same thoughts as yours go through my head, too. Such a waste.
    People around here do the German tradition of shoes by the door. People around us. Not us. We've never done it. Every year the kids come home on the 5th and mention St. Nick. I just say, "Ah yes. It is." And it is never mentioned again.
    One can never go wrong with silly string. I will keep that in mind for the 25th.

  14. I SO hear you on the problem of buying random crap, just for the sake of buying gifts. I think this is why I hate Secret Santa so much. Who are these parents using ipods as stocking stuffers? Sheesh. I think silly string definitely nailed it for you this year!

  15. wait a minute, BACK TO THE PINBALL machine...! let me get this straight, aside from that, you have acres of woods and an indoor basketball court? this is like, BOY HEAVEN!

  16. My sister went to school in Grand Rapids and was completely shocked when all the girls in her dorm set out wooden shoes for St. Nick......being full blown Midwest Hodgepodge, she set out a pair of running shoes lol! I would totally fail every time... Southern NM has some pretty cool traditions, but we participate in a touristy way so no pressure!

  17. I grew up in SW Wisconsin and we also celebrated St Nicks day by putting out our dinner plates and received an orange, hard candy and mittens. My mom wasn't the stocking stuffer type of girl either, but she made the day special by remembering it. We also took canned goods to school for the food pantry; my first involvement in helping those in need. I am trying to start the tradition with my husband, but he forgets unless I remind him.


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