Skip to main content

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 has wonderful ideas, activities, poems and information about how the day is celebrated all over the world.


  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!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Summer Canning

Yesterday, I opened a jar of pickled brussel sprouts and carrots that I made a few weeks ago. I don't can often and wish I did more. The satisfying pull of the lid coming off the first time and the whiff of vinegar and garlic should inspire me more. But, I'm lulled into laziness because I always have something put up by my parents in either my fridge or pantry - beets, pickled this or that, jelly, tomatoes, salsa, flavored vinegar. I know I'll greatly miss the benefits of their industriousness when they decide it's too much trouble. 

Both my parents grew up in families that canned and, in that way it seems people of their generation can remember small details of growing up (they actually showed up for their lives as opposed to watching other's live lives on screens 24/7), they lovingly remember specific foods and tastes from specific family members.

My mother, who grew up in Hallettsville, remembers enjoying garlic pickles (spears), sweet and sour pickles (spears), b…

Buchta with Nuts and Raisins

In his photo book Journeys into Czech Moravian Texas, author Sean N. Gallup wrote a few paragraphs about food in contemporary Texas- Czech culture. During his fieldwork, he observed "Other Texas-Czech pastries [besides kolaches] include klobasniky.... and buchta, a larger fruit filled loaf.... " (Texas A&M University Press, 1998).

Though my grandmother made an apricot buchta (or she just called it a roll), more common buchty might be poppyseed or cream cheese. Less common seems to be the buchta I've made filled with nuts and raisins. The Czech word "buchta" doesn't seem to be surviving as well as the word "kolach" either, for though Gallup mentions it third in a list of common Texas Czech pastries, I've found it almost impossible to find a recipe in a community cookbook that actually uses the word buchta. Instead, I find recipes for "rolls".  Still, Westfest actually has a buchta category in it's annual baking contest. And po…

Dougal Makes Cream Cheese Rolls

When my 14-year-old son asks to bake something (himself), especially something from his ethnic heritage, well history, nostalgia, and pride tell me to say yes. My oldest son asked to make cheese rolls (or buchta in Czech) which is one of his favorite sweets. We didn't get started until late on a Friday night, after dinner out, after going to see the new Percy Jackson movie, after a trip to the grocery store to get the ingredients because I hadn't planned well. But we did it. How could I discourage such an urge?

Cheese rolls are not dinner rolls with cheese on them; they are jelly-roll type sweets of yeasted dough filled with sweetened cream cheese. We used my grandmother Anita (Morkovsky) Kallus' recipe, which is below. A buchta can actually have in it some of the same things that kolaches are filled with... poppyseed, apricots, cream cheese, but also pecans, brown sugar, raisins or whatever else might strike your fancy. They can also be shaped so that the dough is braide…