Archive for the ‘St. Nicholas Day’ Category

This is a very yummy recipe. We are making the dough now and are refrigerating over night. Tomorrow, we plan to roll it out, cut shapes of St. Nicholas and nautical symbols (using patterns and a sharp knife for the nautical symbols, since we do not have any cookie cutters for them). There is plenty of free clip art online that can be used to make such patterns. We will post pictures of our finished cookies tomorrow.

Traditional European gingerbread recipe modified to be lenten:

1 cup of Earth Balance Margarine or other nondairy margarine.

2 cups of dark brown sugar

The equivalent of 2 eggs using either Egg Replacer or 2 Tbsp of ground flax seeds blended in 4 Tbsp of water

Grated rind of one lemon

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg or mace

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cardamom

1/8 tsp salt

4 cups of flour (we used 2 cups whole wheat and 2 cups unbleached)

1 tsp baking powder


Cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Stir in egg replacer and lemon rind. Sift spices, salt and powder with flour and gradually stir into butter mixture. Wrap in wax paper, plastic wrap or ziplock bag and refrigerate over night (or if in a rush, chill in the freezer 20 minutes).

Roll dough between 1/4 – 1/8 inch on a floured surface. Larger cut-out figures require thicker dough. Cut out figures with cookie cutters or using a sharp knife. The dough can also be used with a cookie mold, or can be molded by hand.

Place cookies on lightly oiled baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Large and thicker cookies will require a  longer baking time. If you prefer soft cookies, remove them from the oven when just set. The longer they remain in, the crisper they will be.

You can ice and decorate when cool.

Note: as I make this dough, I am finding it too dry, so I am adding water to help it ball up into a real workable dough. We will see how it works out tomorrow when we shape and bake it.


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The truth of thy deeds
hath revealed thee to thy flock as a canon of faith,
an icon of meekness,
and a teacher of abstinence;
for this cause thou hast achieved the heights by humility,
riches by poverty,
O Father and Hierarch Nicholas,
intercede with Christ God that our souls may be saved.
~ Troparion

This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him. St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion founded by his uncle. Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3). When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: “Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowned by Me.” Immediately after that, by God’s wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock. During the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, he was cast into prison, but even there he instructed the people in the Law of God. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea [325] and, out of great zeal for the truth, struck the heretic Arius with his hand. For this act he was removed from the Council and from his archiepiscopal duties, until the Lord Christ Himself and the Most-holy Theotokos appeared to several of the chief hierarchs and revealed their approval of Nicholas. A defender of God’s truth, this wonderful saint was ever bold as a defender of justice among the people. On two occasions, he saved three men from an undeserved sentence of death. Merciful, truthful, and a lover of justice, he walked among the people as an angel of God. Even during his lifetime, the people considered him a saint and invoked his aid in difficulties and in distress. He appeared both in dreams and in person to those who called upon him, and he helped them easily and speedily, whether close at hand or far away. A light shone from his face as it did from the face of Moses, and he, by his presence alone, brought comfort, peace and good will among men. In old age he became ill for a short time and entered into the rest of the Lord, after a life full of labor and very fruitful toil, to rejoice eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles and to glorify his God. He entered into rest on December 6, 343. The Prologue From Ohrid

It is our family tradition to fill our stockings with gifts, gingerbread cookies and treats, to be enjoyed on St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6/19.  And we normally include gold foil chocolate coins (the dark chocolate variety is lenten). They commemorate Saint Nicholas saving three poor peasant daughters from a life of sin and despair, when he threw gold coins in their window for their marriage dowries. The coins are traditionally believed to have landed into their stockings/shoes close to the fireplace–why we hang Christmas stockings on the fireplace today.

Here is a wonderful unit study on St. Nicholas that really fits the pattern of how we have traditionally filled our own stockings. It includes the following suggestions (which I rewritten, attempting to put in a more Orthodox context where possible):

  • Gold coins (or Sacagawea coins), other money or gift certificate representing the money he threw into the window of a poor family’s house.
  • A toy representing the toys he had commissioned a toymaker to make for poor children.
  • Something to represent his devotion to God: a spiritually oriented book, icon, cross,  prayer rope or other object.
  • Something to represent the food he would give to the poor (fruit, nuts, gift certificate, etc).
  • An item of clothing representing his clothing the poor.
  • Something representing the gingerbread he liked to bake and give away (lenten recipe here).
  • Something representing the ship he saved through his prayers.

The unit study recommends singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” but there is a traditional Orthodox hymn that could be sung instead. Other options for coloring, besides what they suggest, can be found in The Nativity Icon Ornament Kit which includes one image of St. Nicholas that can be hung on the tree when finished. Or the free downloadable coloring sheets found at OrthodoxOnline.com.

In addition, when we have been able, we have tried to do a good work anonymously in St. Nicholas’ name to a family in need.

We also try to have a very festive lenten salmon dinner and sing the troparion as a part of our meal prayer.

And if for some reason we are unable to attend Liturgy commemorating his feast day at church, we read the Akathist commemorating him.

For more resources on celebrating St. Nicholas Day:

The Miracle of St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas for Little Ones




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