It must have been the shoes [UPDATED]Published 7:19am Friday, December 3, 2010 Updated 7:20am Friday, December 10, 2010
As a kid I always looked forward to Dec. 6. I think it was a sign that Christmas was right around the corner.
That’s because on the night of Dec. 5, I and my four siblings would set out our favorite pairs of shoes. We would set them in front of the fireplace so they would be easily found come morning.
When we awoke on the morning of December 6 it was like we were awaking to magic. Somehow our shoes were filled with candy, maybe some fruit and a little toy or two.
There was always a little something left behind for my Mom, too.
That’s how we celebrated St. Nicholas Day in my house growing up.
St. Nicholas didn’t disappoint. And he’d have us kids rolling in laughter each year because my Dad got a little something from St. Nicholas each year, too. But in Dad’s case, he woke to find his shoes filled with rocks. Nothing more, nothing less.
Dad always said it was because Ol’ St. Nick must have thought he was bad again that year and it was a warning to us kids that we better be good for three more weeks because Santa Claus checked on boys and girls who were naughty and nice.
We could very easily wind up with a stocking filled with rocks or coal on Christmas morning.
St. Nicholas Day had long been a tradition growing up. I always figured it was an appetizer for Christmas — if you couldn’t wait for Dec. 25, here was something to tide you over. I simply remember Dec. 6 mornings as moments of pure joy. Must have been the shoes.
I’d have breakfast and then get ready for the cold, wintery, eight block walk from my house in South Minneapolis to Resurrection Catholic School. At school we’d talk a bit about St. Nicholas because he would be our saint of the day in religion class and I would beem with glee because St. Nicholas had been at my house the night before.
Funny things happen through the course of divorces. One of them was that fact that when Dad moved from the house, so did many of our traditions — like St. Nicholas Day.
I don’t think I’ve celebrated St. Nicholaus Day since I was 12 years old.
As I think about the day and all the joy it brought me, I’m disappointed that my three boys were cheated from the same family tradition I found so much joy in.
But there’s always time for redemption.
My wife Kathy always says I have too many pairs of shoes. So on Sunday I’m going to leave out a pair of size 11 Columbia shoes in the living room with hope that the memory of a St. Nicholas day that keeps bringing me joy will return.
I don’t know if they’ll get filled or not, but if they do, I figure it must be in the fact that I have a magic pair shoes.
Jeff Hage is the managing editor of The Daily Journal. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.