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Guest post by Charlotte Riggle
Most folks know St. Nicholas from Clement Clark Moore’s “Night before Christmas.” In that nineteenth-century poem, the saint is a jolly old elf. And many families love celebrating the magic of this St. Nicholas. They love sending wish lists to the North Pole. They love the reindeer, the sleigh loaded with gifts, the stockings hung by the chimney with care and filled to overflowing with candy and toys.
But some families are uncomfortable with the materialism that this view of the saint encourages. During the winter holidays, they want an icon of faith, kindness, and generosity.
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
And that’s just what they’ll find when they jump into The Saint Nicholas Day Snow. They’ll learn why we hang stockings for the saint to fill. It’s a true story, although it happened long ago and far away. There was a man who had fallen into such poverty that he decided to sell his daughters to a brothel so they would have food and shelter. St. Nicholas, who was then a wealthy young man, came to their house by night and dropped bags of gold through the window, to save the girls from this fate.
They’ll also see images of St. Nicholas as he has been known and honored around the world, from the fourth century until now. But those images are just the background of the story.
The story itself, the story of The Saint Nicholas Day Snow, is a story of here and now. A young girl’s grandmother is ill, so her parents arrange for her to spend the night with her best friend. They need to get to the hospital where the grandmother is being treated.
In the hurry and the worry, Elizabeth’s parents have forgotten that it’s St. Nicholas Eve.
Both families celebrate St. Nicholas. But their traditions are different. In Elizabeth’s family, St. Nicholas comes on St. Nicholas Eve. In Catherine’s family, he comes on Christmas Eve. That worries Elizabeth when she realizes that she might miss out on a visit from St. Nicholas. And, of course, she’s worried about her grandmother.
Catherine’s mom sees the worry, and reassures her with practical kindness, surrounding her with prayer and cookies and love.
In a beautiful, wordless story-within-the-story, Elizabeth’s grandmother is also surrounded with prayer and love, and her parents are supported with the kindness of the medical staff and a visiting priest.
The layered story allows young children to enjoy the simple story of friends having an overnight, while older children will find enough richness and complexity to bring them back to it again and again.
Something To Do: The Saint Nicholas Day Snow treats
Oranges, candy canes, chocolate coins, and cookies are all traditional St. Nicholas Day treats. The oranges and the chocolate coins represent the bags of gold that St. Nicholas gave the widower’s daughters so they could marry. Candy canes represent St. Nicholas’s crozier, the staff that a bishop carries. And cookies – I don’t know of any symbolic reason for cookies on St. Nicholas Day. I just can’t imagine celebrating the day without cookies!
Lime Snowball Cookie Recipe
In The Saint Nicholas Day Snow, Catherine and Elizabeth make coconut covered snowball cookies. Here’s one of my favorite recipes for snowball cookies.
2 ½ cups flour
¾ cup sugar – superfine sugar or berry sugar, if you can get it
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cool but not cold, cut into 16 pieces
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp cream cheese, room temperature
3 Tbsp lime juice
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut, pulsed in a food processor until finely chopped
Heat the oven to 375F.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together, or use the mixer to whisk them together. With the mixer running on low, add the butter one piece at a time. Continue mixing until the dough looks crumbly and slightly wet. Add the vanilla and cream cheese. Mix on low until the dough starts forming large clumps.
Use your hands to shape rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough into one-inch balls. Put the balls about an inch and a half apart on the cookie sheet. Bake one pan of cookies at a time, about 12 minutes, until lightly browned.
Cool the cookies on a rack to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese and lime juice until smooth and free of lumps. Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth. If it’s too thick, add a bit more lime juice.
Dip the top half of the cookies into the glaze, then into the shredded coconut. Set the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for half an hour or so, to allow the glaze to set.
When you buy boxes of candy canes, inevitably some of them are broken. When that happens, don’t feel bad. Crush the broken candy canes and use them to make these amazingly, incredibly tender cookies.
1-1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 Tbsp butter, softened
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and cornstarch.
In another bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the peppermint extract. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl often to make sure everything is evenly mixed.
Refrigerate the dough, covered, about half an hour, or until it’s firm enough to handle.
Heat the oven to 350F.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Using your hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the balls two inches apart on the cookie sheets. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
In a small bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the milk and peppermint extract. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth.
Spread the frosting over the tops of the cookies, then dip the top of the cookies in the crushed candies. Store in an airtight container.
About Charlotte Riggle
Charlotte Riggle is the author of Catherine’s Pascha and The Saint Nicholas Day Snow. She’s a proud sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. You can find her online at her website, where she blogs about faith, hope, and picture books. And you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.