It has been many years since I enjoyed St. Nicholas Day parties as a boy, and with this being St. Nicholas Day Eve, I started reminiscing about this exciting time that my family sadly no longer celebrates each year.
My mother's side of the family is German, with a touch of French courtesy of my great grandmother who came from Alsace-Lorraine. They spoke a little German around the house, and I am left with a smattering of phrases I can still remember fondly like Das ist gut or Guten Morgen. One of my most cherished memories involves the day we called "Little Christmas," which fell on December 6th each year, which is the feast day of St. Nicholas.
We would gather at my Mom's sister's apartment when I was small. Aunt Margie would have the tree decorated and small gifts spread on the table. There would be snacks served like nuts, raisins, chocolates, and cream wafers accompanied by tall glasses of milk. She would put on Christmas records; usually Bing Crosby, Elvis, and Frank Sinatra were the chosen artists, and the room was filled with music, warmth, laughter, and love.
In those days my grandfather sat in a chair in the corner and smoked his cigarettes and drank whiskey, thinking nothing of secondhand smoke because no one knew about that then. We would each take our turns opening the gifts. They were always toys, and that was why we were most excited. There was a guarantee of no disappointments like the shirt or scarf we would inevitably get stuck with on Christmas morning.
It was the same every year. One year I got an astronaut GI Joe, another year it was Johnny West, and then General Custer. Another year I got a few small cavalry soldiers. These action figures were always a prelude to the bigger and more desired toys on our Christmas lists that Santa was no doubt feverishly working on at that moment up at the North Pole, even on his feast day.