04 December 2010

Sinterklaas & Ginger Cookies

St. Nicholas Day

Many countries in Europe celebrate the Feast of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, on the evening of December 5 in preparation for St. Nicholas Day on December 6.  After dinner, families hunt for their presents, following clues in funny, anonymous poems. They also eat candies and cookies, especially spicy crispy ginger-cookie figures formed in a traditional wooden mold. The legend of St. Nicholas is, like the lives of many saints, shrouded in mystery. We know that he was the bishop of Myra in Lycia, part of Asia Minor, during the fourth century. He is credited with saving three sisters from lives of ill repute by throwing bags of gold into their house (some say down the chimney, others say through the window) to provide for their dowries. In many places in the United States and abroad, children still hang their stockings by the chimney or place their shoes by the window for St. Nicholas to fill them with presents and sweets on the eve of his feast day. He is considered the patron saint of children.

In the old movie Miracle on 34th Street, there is a sweet scene where a child war refugee who speaks only Dutch is brought to visit Santa Claus at Macy's where Santa Claus speaks and sings to her in Dutch about "Sinterklaas" thus proving to one more child that he really, truly is Santa Claus. Thanks to the notes on You Tube I was able to get a translation plus some quibbling about the child's accent until someone clarified that the actress was actually of Dutch heritage but had come to the US so young that while she spoke Dutch it was with an American/English accent.

Translation part I

Santa: I am happy you came!
Child: OOh you ARE Sinterklaas!
Santa: Wlll yes of course
Child: I knew it, I knew you would understand me.
Santa: Of couse, tell me what you would like to get from Sinterklaas

--now this version has been cut, so the part where she answers him is missing, but her response was: I don't want anything, I already have everything, I just want to stay with this lovely lady---

ranslation part II

Santa: Do you want to sing something for me?

Child: Saint Nicolas Little Rascal,
Put something in my little shoe,
Put something in my little boot,
Thank you little Saint Nicolas!
Saint Nicolas Little Rascal
Put something in my little shoe,
Put something in my little boot,
Thank you little Saint Nicolas!

Now for the important part. Unless you have a mania for tradition and own a Sinterklaas cookie press, you might have to make do with Ginger Bread Men. So break out the cookie cutters and practice the story of the Ginger Bread Man.

Gingerbread Men

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark molasses
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ Teaspoon salt
4 cups flour

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the brown sugar, molasses, and butter to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Dissolve the baking soda in 1/3 cup of water and add it to the molasses
mixture. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well blended. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Roll out the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a floured board. Cut with a gingerbread-man cookie cutter. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until crisp and
golden. Allow the cookies to cool before decorating.

Creamy Frosting:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon flavored extract (your choice)
food coloring (optional)


Travis Cody said...

Gingersnaps have always been one of my favorite kinds of cookies, from the aroma to the texture to the taste. I just love the sweet spices of the holiday season.

Finding Pam said...

Jamie, this is a beautiful story about Sinterklass. Ginger snaps are so delicious as well as ginger bread.

Coco said...

That scene has always brought tears to my eyes. There was something about the confirmation of the belief of that little girl in such a simple yet meaningful way ...

My son and I made gingerbread men on the weekend and it's one of our favourite family traditions.

Thank you for the wonderful read this morning.

Coco said...

BTW, I hope it's okay that I have linked to your blog. I enjoy what you have to share. Thanks and have a great day!