Candy Canes and St. Nicholas Cookies
St. Nicholas' Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Jolly old Saint Nicholas
Lean your ear this way;
Don't you tell a single soul
What I'm going to say,
Christmas Eve is coming soon;
Now you dear old man,
Whisper what you'll bring to me;
Tell me if you can."
~ Traditional, 1881
Happy St. Nicholas' Day! If you've escaped the Krampus and left out your shoes last night, you may have received a treat from St. Nicholas! On the eve of St. Nicholas, many children set out shoes filled with carrots and hay on the for St. Nick’s horse (or donkey) hoping to receive small gifts such as fruits, nuts, chocolate, candies, cookies, coins, or poems and riddles! One such small gift of candy might be a candy cane! The candy cane allegedly owes its distinctive shape to a 17th century German choirmaster, who bent the a hard candy into the form of a shepherd’s staff and gave it to children to symbolize the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. As shepherd of his people and patron saint of children, images of St. Nicholas often include a hook-shaped staff called a crozier. Besides candy canes, other traditional treats for the feast of St. Nicholas include St. Nicholas cookies, a popular holiday spiced cookie with similar flavors to gingerbread and can include cloves, anise, pepper, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, but without the molasses! 🎅🏻 🍬
The Candy Cane Reel
Saint Nicholas, also known as Nikolaos of Myra is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students. A 4th century bishop, Nicholas had a reputation for secret gift-giving and became the model for the modern Santa Claus.
Traditions associated with the Feast of St. Nicholas, December 6th, include the giving of gifts and treats, including traditional St. Nicholas cookies, gingerbread, nuts, candy canes, apples and oranges, often left in the shoes of expectant and obedient children.
Naughty children could expect coals or switches instead!
Many regional variations of St. Nicholas cookies abound, which often call for special cookie molds or stamps.
Click the links to peruse the recipes:
Speculaas Koekjes (Dutch Spice Cookies)
Speculatius (German Spice Cookies)
St. Nikolaus Speculatius (Kris Kringle) Cookies (German Spice Cookies)
Pepernoten (Dutch Peppernuts)
Pepernoten (Dutch Peppernut Cookies)
Pfeffernuesse (German Peppernuts)
Ciastka Miodowe (Polish Honey Cakes)
Janina's Piernik (Polish Honey Spice Cakes)
Luzern Lebkuchen (Swiss Bar Cookies)
Mykolaichyk or Mikolajczyk (Ukrainian Molded Cookies)
Ukrainian Christmas Honey Cookies
Saint Nicholas Icon Cookies (molded with artos bread seal)
Pains d'épices de la Saint-Nicolas (French Spice Cookies, French video with recipe)
Another St. Nicholas Day tradition is the blessing of candy canes, another Christmas treat with a religious association. Its distinctive shape is attributed to a 17th century German choirmaster, who bent the candy into the form of a shepherd’s staff and gave it to children attending church services. The crook symbolizes the gentle image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. As shepherd of his people and patron saint of children, images of St. Nicholas the bishop often include a hook-shaped staff called a crozier.
Postcard below: Candy Cane by William B. Steenberge Bangor (1844-1922)