St. Nicholas Day and Tangerines
Growing up, I always felt the celebration of this holiday was unique to Texas Czechs. I never met another child who knew what it was and, as an adult, only other Texas Czechs seem to know about it. And usually those adults I've met who do know it only have vague memories of the meaning and the activities surrounding it. That's more interesting when you consider that the name Santa Claus evolved from Sinterklaas, a short form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas.) There are a few places in the state that have public events for the holiday, including the Czech Center Museum Houston which hosts a holiday dinner (for grown ups) on December 6th and the town of West which features Svaty Mikulas (Saint Nicholas) at their Christmas Market on December 7-8 and 14-15. But it's rare for me to meet someone who's children still hang their stockings on the night of December 5th as my boys do; as I did; as my mother did; as my grandmother did.
We were told that bad children would receive rotten potatoes, coal, or a switch (for their parents to beat them with.)
In 2012, it would pretty hard to get a child excited about a tangerine considering the embarrassment of riches in US grocery stores. My mom gets teary-eyed thinking about the box of oranges her father would order from the Valley for the holidays. Though my older son does know how special the tangerines in his stocking are because he picked them himself from a tree in my mother's backyard -- see the picture above. (If my 4-year-old knew where the fruit came from, it would blow the whole mirage of St. Nicholas' visit.)
red and white and flavored with peppermint extract. My cookies do have two colors -- orange and white instead of the traditional black and white. They have a bright, but subtle tangerine flavor and are not too sweet. I think they'd be very pretty with sparkly sugar sprinkled on top before baking.
|The four-year-old licking the mixer beaters.|
Tangerine Pinwheel Cookies
8 ounces softened butterIn a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until until fluffy. (I used a hand mixer up until this point.) Add the flour and work into a smooth dough. Divide the dough in half. Into one half, mix in the tangerine zest, 3 drops of red food coloring and 6 drops of yellow. You have to work the dough thoroughly to get the zest and coloring evenly distributed. But work fast! The dough is so full of butter that it gets soft and sticky quickly. Put the two doughs into the refrigerator for about an hour to stiffen them up a bit and make rolling easier.
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
zest from two small tangerines
red and yellow food coloring
|The two layers of dough being rolled up into a "log."|
|Tangerine Pinwheel Cookies cooling on the rack.|