Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

St. Nicholas Day, Dutch Style!

Updated 12/6 - Giveaway OVER LAST CALL: You have until 11:59 AM (PST) tonight to enter my Giveaway of Springerle Christmas Cookies and the book "The Baker's Dozen, A St. Nicholas Tale", by simply leaving a comment (here and/or on this post link on Facebook - go HERE for details). It's okay to comment more than once.  Winner will be announced tomorrow, on St. Nicholas Day, December 6th!


The Baker's Dozen is a story that involves St. Nicholas.  The setting is an American Dutch colonial town (later known as "New York").  

It made me think of another Dutch story, Mary Mapes Dodge's classic 1865 novel for children, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates: A Story of Life in Holland.

My treasured copy - not sure about the copyright,
but the inscription inside is dated "1926".

Below is a lovely excerpt about the Dutch tradition of St. Nicholas Day, from the beginning of Chapter IX:


We all know how, before the Christmas tree began to flourish in the home-life of our country, a certain "right jolly old elf," with "eight tiny reindeer," used to drive his sleigh-load of toys up to our housetops, and then bounded down the chimney to fill the stockings so hopefully hung by the fireplace. His friends called him Santa Claus, and those who were most intimate ventured to say "Old Nick." It was said that he originally came from Holland. Doubtless he did, but, if so, he certainly, like many other foreigners, changed his ways very much after landing upon our shores. In Holland, Saint Nicholas is a veritable saint and often appears in full costume, with his embroidered robes, glittering with gems and gold, his miter, his crosier, and his jeweled gloves. Here [in America] Santa Claus comes rollicking along, on the twenty-fifth of December, our holy Christmas morn. But in Holland, Saint Nicholas visits earth on the fifth, a time especially appropriated to him. Early on the morning of the sixth, he distributes his candies, toys, and treasures, then vanishes for a year.

Christmas Day is devoted by the Hollanders to church rites and pleasant family visiting. It is on Saint Nicholas's Eve that their young people become half wild with joy and expectation. To some of them it is a sorry time, for the saint is very candid, and if any of them have been bad during the past year, he is quite sure to tell them so. Sometimes he gives a birch rod under his arm and advises the parents to give them scoldings in place of confections, and floggings instead of toys.

I just love the way Mary Mapes Dodge enthusiastically interweaves little explanations/asides like the one above about Dutch culture and history throughout the story of Hans Brinker.

Set against a backdrop of frozen canals, this beloved tale is about how 15- year-old Hans - a most honorable hero - and his younger sister Gretel yearn to compete in their Dutch village's most exciting event of the year: the great ice-skating race!  

With their hand-carved wooden skates, they don't seem to have a chance against their well-trained friends, who own steel blades.  The prize?  Silver Skates, of course.

The conflict?  The reason Hans' family is poverty stricken is that the father, Raff Brinker, who is sick and has amnesia from a head injury caused by a fall from the dike, cannot remember or communicate where he has hidden their savings.  (By the way, Raff is also prone to violent outbursts - lots of Victorian literary drama here!)

Hans, Gretel, and their mother must work very hard to make up for the incapacitated father's lost job and wages.  The Brinkers are looked down on by most of the community families because of the father's confused state of mind and because they are poor, but luckily a kind doctor enters their lives...I hope you'll read this truly heart-warming story with your kids!  Best for ages 8 and up.


  1. Love books, love St. Nicholas Day! Thanks for keeping this tradition alive.

  2. Both the book and cookie molds look delightful!

  3. Thanks for the opportunity! Love your blog,

    Signed, a new reader

  4. Love checking in with your blog and facebook page! Both the book and the molds would be a treasured in our home :).

  5. We made Dutch Kruidonten (ginger nuts) this year. It is a fun new tradition for us :)

  6. @Michelle - I just read about your Dutch Kruidonten on your blog (and saw the link to the recipe). They sound yummy! I'll have to make them next year!