Each year, on the sixth day of December, most Germans celebrate the life and death of the bishop St. Nicholas. He is known as the patron saint of little children. Putting a boot outside your door, the night before, is part of this memorable tradition. In the morning of St. Nicholas day, well-behaved children find their boots filled with chocolates, oranges, coins or toys. By the end of November, children had already written their Nicholas wish lists. Not me, I did not have such a list.
My parents believed in encouraging and rewarding good behavior; however, they did not agree with fulfilling endless desires on a mile-long wish list. However, my mom and dad made a special effort to keep this holiday memorable, even without the famous wish list. I can remember it as clear as day. It was the day before St. Nicholas. The smell of cinnamon baked apples and vanilla sugar cookies filled the house. Hearing the festive German folk music from the record player could only mean one thing: dad was ready to polish the boots.
I was anxiously awaiting the question: Are you ready to shine these boots, little one? Not even a second later, I responded with a firm, “yes. ” Everything was prepared. The boots were sitting outside our doors, the cookies were baked, and my beaming smile was proof that I had reached a moment of magical peace. Nothing could make this point in time more valuable. Then the phone rang. My mom asked me to answer it, which was unusual. I answered the phone to be surprised by none other than St. Nicholas. The deep, firm voice, telling me about my accomplishments and mentioning my good behavior, sounded a lot like my dad’s voice: the same tone, the same warmth. After my conversation with St. Nicholas- or so I believed- I gave my mom the biggest hug. Moments later my dad walked in the door, telling Mom and me how much snow he had just shoveled. After a while, I grew a little suspicious of all these happenings on this particular day.
Every year it was the same routine: Dad looked for some change, he left the house to clear the snow off the sidewalk, the phone rang, and I answered it. Figuring out my parent’s master plan did not keep me from going along with it. The day before St. Nicholas brought excitement, joy, and appreciation, followed by gratitude, when a shiny, graciously filled boot was found in front of my door the next morning. December the sixth was the day most Germans celebrated St. Nicholas. December the fifth was the day my parents celebrated me- with a little help from a bishop.