I’ve been busy making memories today. Well, creating the backdrop for memories to be made tomorrow actually. Tomorrow is St. Nicholas day, and thus my Nicholas’ name day. In the greek tradition name days are bigger than birthdays, and are usually celebrated kind of like we do birthdays, with presents and nice phone calls. Both Nicholas and Cassie (Christina) have their name days fall in December, and me being the total christmas-junkie that I am, love it. I get two more reasons to make December an even more fun month than it already is.Today I started what I have decided will be a new
Stamatopoulos Christmas Tradition: decorating the christmas tree the night before St. Nicholas day.
The reason I do it at night and not during the day is because I don’t want Nicholas or Cassie to participate in the tree trimming just yet. There are the obvious reasons; delicate ornaments and clumsy kiddos don’t really mix, and mess mess mess being two of those, but I honestly don’t mind either.
The reason I don’t want them to help out just yet is because I so vividly remember the magic from when I was little..
Let me first explain the basics of Norwegian christmas as it was celebrated in our household.
Lillejulaften (the 23rd) : We would eat Julegrøt –rice porridge served with sugar, cinnamon and a knob of butter smack dab in the centre of if. This is actually a really old scandinavian custom and is usually served on christmas. Both rice and milk were expensive, thus making this a luxurious meal for the farmers back in the olden days. Before we sat down to eat my mother would hide a scolded, white almond in it. The person that finds the almond gets a price. (A tradition much like the greek bread that you hide a coin in for the new year, the one that gets the coin is supposed to be lucky the following year.)
Julaften (christmas eve) : This is the big day for us Scandinavians. We say that Jesus was born that nigh, and that is what we celebrate. Christmas presents are not opened until the evening, after a long day filled with eating, eating and waiting and waiting and waiting for the time where the children finally get to open presents. At some point during the gift opening Julenissen (santa) actually comes knocking asking “are there any nice children here?” and hands out a gift to each child.
Now that you have the low-down on the whole Scandinavian Christmas thing. Back to the magic..
My mum and dad would wait until we were in bed, and drag the tree into the house and through the hallway and into the living room. The living room is located right above my twin brothers and mine bed room, so we would of course hear that they were doing something, but we wouldn’t care. We were busy whispering and making elaborate schemes for how we would catch mum and dad. We just knew that there was no such thing as the strompenisse- or stocking elf- and we were hell-bent on catching our parents filling our stockings. In our house there was no fireplace, so my mother and father had the tradition on hanging our stockings on the doorknob outside our room. I remember the two of us staying awake as long as we possibly could, fighting off the drooping heavy eyelids, and stifling yawns. We were so excited about the gift extravaganza waiting the next day that we had a hard time sleeping anyway, but occasionally we would ask the other “are you awake?” to make sure we didn’t fall asleep. I remember my mum coming down the stairs every half hour or so to check if we were sleeping, and telling us to go to sleep NOW, when she discovered us very much awake and waiting down in our bed room. Oh, how LONG those nights must have felt to our parents. Waiting and waiting for us to fall asleep, thankfully in the end we did, and one of them (or maybe the strompenisse) would come down and fill our stockings and move them from the door handle to the foot of our beds.
Waking up on Christmas and feeling something hard and rough under the covers where my feet were felt like christmas! We would take our stockings and tip-toe up the stairs. The smell of fresh pine-tree thick in the air we would round the corner and walk in to the living room to the most amazing sight. A fully lit and decorated christmas tree. Total bliss, total childhood magic. The kind that stays with you forever, and makes you want to recreate the same for your own children. Full of awe we would sit down on the sofa without even turning on the tv(!) open our stockings and munch our way through the chocolate, oranges and what not that were in there. We would open the little present in the stocking while we sat there and commented on the beauty of the tree and it was christmas..
It makes me feel like christmas just writing about it now, and I want that same experience for Nicholas, Cassie and Tristan. This whole tree decorating thing only lasted until we were old enough to actually want to help decorate it, so maybe around seven years old, but it’s still what I remember the best about christmas. Being like I said, a christmas junkie, there is no way I could wait until the 23rd to trim my tree. So this is the New Tradition. The night of the 5th decorate the tree so the kids can wake up to in on St. Nicholas Day!
A few pictures from our previous christmases!
Happy St. Nicholas day!