Sugar cookies are amazing. Well, most cookies are amazing. Today, I was able to participate in yet another reason why I absolutely love home schooling: baking cookies as a family. In honor of the Feast of St. Nicholas, after the schoolwork was completed, an epic baking and decorating experiment began. I mixed the dough, aided by a few very willing children (even if they were a bit sloppy with the flour.) :) Afterwards, we rolled it out and cut stars and canes and images of St. Nick. As I watched the kids squish out the dough and get creative with the shapes, I tried to focus on the beauty of it all (rather than the mess ending up on the floor.) Being able to spend time baking with your kids rather than having them in school for 8 hours plus 2 hours of homework before dinner and bed is a true blessing. Crafting cookies together as a family is just one of innumerable ways you and your children can bond. Plus, the art of making tasty cookies is always a good skill to learn. Then, more family arrived to help with the decorating. The splendid glittery stars and brightly colored St. Nick's looked as delicious as they tasted. It was wonderful to see the variety in the kids' imaginations as they combined marshmallows, candy, icing, and sprinkles in creative mixes. No two cookies looked the same. Each one portrayed the individuality and uniqueness of the kids. We are in store for more cookie baking this Thursday in celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
As I watch the kids work at inventing their colorful cookies, I fall back to fond memories of my own family Christmas cookie baking. We have our own traditional cookies that grace our table each year: shortbread snowmen; chocolate golf balls; snickerdoodles. We spend a few days before Christmas baking the cookies in preparation. (Of course, not ALL of the cookies make it to Christmas. We have to taste-test them.) These memories of my childhood bring a smile to my lips as I witness new memories being made right in front of me. Regardless of the fact that the kids probably don't think about the memories they're creating now, I know that they will one day look back at the traditions they celebrated and the family time they spent together. Don't be afraid to continue the old traditions, even if your kids complain a bit. Don't be afraid to begin new traditions. It is never too late to create a memory.
Turning to the feast behind these particular cookies, I remember hearing once that people don't believe in Santa Claus. That there is no such person, nor was there ever. While I tend to agree that there isn't a man living at the North Pole with hordes of tiny elves at his command, I do believe most emphatically in the existence of Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas was born in the 3rd century to wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian. His parents died when he was still young, and Nicholas used his whole inheritance to help the sick and needy just as Jesus commanded. He became Bishop of Myra at a young age, and soon Bishop Nicholas was well-known for his generosity to all in need. One of the most famous of stories concerning Nicholas' generosity is the tale of a man and his three daughters. The girls had no suitable dowry, so on three separate nights a bag of gold was thrown through the window by Nicholas, supposedly landing in a stocking or a shoe (which led to the custom of children hanging out their stockings or laying out their shoes for gifts from St. Nick.) For more information concerning St. Nicholas' story, please visit: St. Nicholas Center.
Therefore, to all the nay-sayers who state that Santa Claus is a simple myth, I reply to the contrary. Santa Claus has come down through the centuries as a tradition inspired by the famous Saint Nicholas. Indeed, Santa's outfit itself correlates to the clothing that Bishop Nicholas would have worn - red robes; a pointed hat; a staff. Keep the magic of Santa Claus alive in your homes and remember the origin behind the tradition. The stories and tales of both Saint Nicholas and the fables of Santa Claus teach virtues and an honorable way of life. Generosity, above all else to be learned from these stories, is the most important. If such a beautiful virtue can be instilled in your children, together we will create a happier and more peaceful and loving world.