Friday, 6 December 2013

Advent Diary, day 6 - The Feast of St Nicholas

Jan Jiri Heinsch
1647-1712
St. Nicholas giving alms to the poor and needy of his diocese.


All good children in mid-European countries had a lovely surprise today: St Nicholas brought them presents. Children who had been well behaved and never told fibs and never irritated grown-ups and were most unchildlike during the previous year were finally rewarded for their creepiness.

They might have saved themselves the trouble, the naughty ones had presents too, of course. They just promised to be good in future.

Jane Collier in her The Art of Ingeniously Tormenting (1753) had a splendid use for real pests:

‘There is no better use of having your children noisy and troublesome, than this of plaguing all your acquaintance. For you may suffer them, when you have visitors, to make such a racket that you cannot hear one another speak. Let them also, with their greasy fingers, soil and besmear your visitors’ clothes; put their fingers and dirty noses into the cream pot, and dribble over the sugar............... in short, be more troublesome and offensive than squirrels, parrots or monkeys.

Fair enough; but wouldn’t it have been easier not to invite visitors in the first place?





21 comments:

  1. Since I love 80% of the children I meet, it is hard for me to understand why anyone would want them to be more grown up. Polite and not touching another's things, yes, but sitting still like little soldiers is dangerous for mankind.

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  2. ha. but then that would not have been polite, now would it...smiles...lol
    i want a present....

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  3. Children have to test the waters to learn about life and parents have to let them test their patience. It is the circle of life.

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    1. test the waters, yes, but when there are visitors there is such a thing as being on "best" behaviour. my children would visit politely, have cake and a drink, then go to the yard and play, not hang all over the visitors. Good manners are as important for children as anybody else and childhood is the best time to learn this.

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  4. Perhaps she was thinking of uninvited visitors, or the 'duty' invitees?

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  5. I have more than a little 'children should be seen and not heard' in me. Sad, but true.

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  6. A great quote - and a good one for anyone who tends to the "everything used to be better in the old days" school of thought.

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  7. Sounds like a good strategy of severaly cutting down one's circle of acquaintances, which in turn will save a lot of time and money because there won't be many visitors left to entertain and cater for.

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  8. Truly quote, Friko, the children are as they are.I didn't know about St.Nicholas's presents on December 7th!

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  9. Hi Friko - well no .. we need to spread our infections around the neighbourhood! St Nick is still very important to many on the continent .. but I love the art work, and your thoughts about kids and visitors ...

    Cheers Hilary

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  10. In the Flemish part of Belgium and in Holland, St.Nicholas is more celebrated then Christmas. It's only in recent years that they also start with a Christmas tree, but St. Nicholas is more important. In each shop and store was one not dressed like the German once, but dressed like in your picture above. He visited the little once in Kindergarten and primary school. My 3 year old Grandson living in Amsterdam, showed me all his presents he got this morning on Skype. He is a lucky child, he gets gifts on St. Nicholas and of cause at Christmas as we always have celebrated Christmas the German way and my son keeps to traditions !

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  11. I hope you have a nice quiet and cozy (gemuetlich) weekend - and you will ever so know where your glasses are! Advice: always check your nose first! Mit einem Laecheln drueck' ich Dich mal! :-)

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  12. Is St Nicholas the one where you put a shoe on the windowsill and if you were good there'd be sweets in it in the morning? I remember putting a shoe on the windowsill every year before mum left, but don't remember exactly when.

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  13. I think this post is great - us .....myself and my siblings were the best behaved kids in the neighbourhood, so I am told. When my Momma went to visit and took us along, we were in best behavior and sat on proper chairs, sat up straight, had milk n cookies and then were excused to play outside while Momma had the rest of her visit. We were always polite and courteous and "Santa", St. Nicholas visited every year and left sweet little gifts. I woke up one Christmas Eve as a child and Santa was standing in my bedroom. I rubbed my eyes and sure enough there he was. He approached my bed, spoke to me in soft tones and told me to always believe in the magic of Christmas and then he was gone - this really happened Friko. I believe :)

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  14. I've been well-behaved this year and never told any fibs - can I have a present??? Ok that in itself is a fib lol :)

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  15. Oh Dear Saint Nicholas. My Dutch Nana used to dress up as him and delight me at Christmas. Fond memories. Dianne

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  16. They must have had a lot of drop ins back then.

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  17. You make a fine point about the visitors! We don't do St. Nicholas Day here -- I like the tradition. And love the painting you used to illustrate this piece!

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  18. I'm having a hard time typing here, because I keep laughing about children being "rewarded for their creepiness"! You are wonderful, Friko.
    Luv, K

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  19. I have always loved the story of St Nicholas and was surprised that no-one else on our table at the village Christmas quiz seemed to know about this legend - good to score a point though!

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