Thursday, December 26, 2013

St. Nicholas Day 2013

My son lining up the chocolate coins St. Nicholas
left in his stocking.
Celebrating St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) has been a tradition in my family since my grandparents were small and, one can assume, since their parents and their parents and their parents, etc. were children, too, in what is now the Czech Republic. My younger son's anticipation of St. Nicholas coming, shopping for what goes in the stockings, and watching my sons open them are highlights of the Christmas season for me. So is the feeling that I kept a cultural tradition alive for at least one more year, hopefully strengthening it's memory in my children's minds.
My niece with the fake moustaches she
got in her stocking.

I wrote about some of my memories of St. Nicholas Day and what my sons get in their stockings in a blog post in 2012. This year was no different, though I found candy cane-flavored Pop Rocks to add (not Czech but really fun) and blown glass ornaments from the Czech Republic.

The devil and angel (Andrea and Jacob
Pustejovsky) and St. Nicholas
(Father Paul Chovanec) at the Czech
Center Museum Houston.
I attended the December meeting of the Travis-Williamson Czech Heritage Society chapter and queried the group about how many of them have grandchildren that get a visit from St. Nicholas. Only one person raised their hand, though a majority of chapter members remembered the holiday themselves from childhood. There were a couple of really fun and creative ways that their parents had incorporated the event into the whole season, like having children leave their letters to Santa Claus on the mantle for St. Nicholas to deliver to him.

For a sweet recollection of how many older Texas Czechs enjoyed the Christmas season, read the Czech section of an article called "How We Make Our Sprits Bright" from the December issue of Texas Co-op Power magazine.

I spent the evening of St. Nicholas Day at the Czech Center Museum Houston (CCMH) where they've hosted a Christmas celebration dedicated to the original Santa Claus since 1995. With close to 200 people attending, including a great number of children, it had to be the liveliest celebration in the state. Many of the children were Czech (not Texas Czech, but actually Czech), so the squeals of "Svaty Mikulas!" were delightful to hear. Father Paul Chovanec, dressed as St. Nicholas, greeted guests, stood for photos, asked children if they'd been good, and handed out treats. He looked so much the part, too, wearing my great uncle Bishop Morkovsky's mitre, which had been donated to the CCMH.

Bob Suttie of the Texas Legacy Czech Band and his sons.
Bob Suttie and his sons played lovely music together on accordion, trumpets, guitar, violin - including one of the Czech carols I know, Narodil se Kristus Pan, which was written in the 15th century. It's one of the two Czech carols my family always sang with my grandmother at her Christmas gathering. It was a beautiful way to start the season... to think about my own childhood and of the traditions and customs that helped make me who I am. I take to heart the reminder of Saint Nicholas as a symbol of one who gives unselfishly and is a friend to children and those in need.

Children receive treats from Saint Nicholas
and his angel assistant (if they've been good.)
If you'd like to incorporate Saint Nicholas into your holiday season, the website www.stnicholascenter.org has wonderful ideas, activities, poems and information about how the day is celebrated all over the world.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading about your family holiday tradition, Dawn. I wish you and all of your family a very fine 2014! The best of luck with the exhibit! I'm so looking forward to seeing all the wonderful material you and Lori are compiling. Warm wish from chilly Stockholm!

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