Monday, December 5, 2011

Belsnickel Comes For a Visit

When I think of the Christmas Season I often think of my grandparents. My brother and I spent so much time with them as children that most of my childhood memories are filled with little anecdotes from one of them. One of my fondest recollections is hearing the stories about Belsnickel (Nicholas in Furs), a legend created by the Pennsylvania Dutch. According to my grandfather, on December 5th, children would leave their shoes out for Belsnickel. If you had been good, Belsnickel would leave candies and/or nuts, but if you were naughty, Belsnickel would leave a switch or coal. The switch was meant as a warning to behave or else. Fortunately we never received a switch.

What I remember most though was not the candy that we received but the ornate knit Sinterklaas shoes that belonged to my grandparents. They would leave them out both on December 5th and on Christmas Eve. They were red and white and sat out on the rectangular wooden coffee table in my grandparents living room. To me, the sight of them signified the beginning of the Christmas Season. As a tribute to my grandparents, my husband and I have continued this tradition with our own children. So tonight before bed, two little boys will place their shoes beside the fireplace eagerly awaiting the arrival of Belsnickel.

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