Those of you that have been reading steadily will know that my family is of Swedish and German heritage, and my husband is of Finnish and Polish descent (among other things). As a result, we have learned about various traditions from these countries, and by far our children's favorite is of course St. Nicholas Eve, which was last night, December 5. Our little boys set their boots by the door and left a carrot for Santa's pony, then we read a story I wrote (which I will not post here, but you can find it at Goodreads.com if you are interested: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/515087-santa-s-pony-a-tale-of-st-nicholas-eve )
Santa doesn't leave many things when he stops by on St. Nicholas Eve, just a few trinkets to let good children know how much he appreciates their efforts at being good. Today each of the boys found a small hand-sized ball, a pair of holiday-stripey socks, a wooden car and a small package of gingerbread cookies. Nothing fancy. Nothing electronic, light-up, noise-making, battery-powered...nada. In fact, what they found was very similar to what my grandfather, born in 1907 to a Swedish immigrant mother and a hard-working, no-nonsense Anglo-American father, may have very well found in his boots on St. Nicholas Day when he was 7 years old. And they were delighted. I woke up to giggles, squeals, and "oh my gosh, Mush left some of his carrot in front of the door!" (apparently Santa's pony missed a bit)
The boys, usually very argumentative first thing in the morning showed off their gifts to each other, gave hugs, and Bubbah wished Cubby a 'Happy St. Nicholas Day!' We were a little late heading out the door this morning, but their joy was palpable, and they carried their excitement into the daycare, where Cubby couldn't wait to show off his firetruck and ball, and Bubbah sat down to tell the other kids about what St. Nicholas Eve was.
Bubbah has his own LeapPad Ultra tablet and a Playstation 2 (his sister's old one, but still: a seven year old with a Playstation...I feel like a failure somehow); Cubby has obnoxiously vast amounts of light-up noise-making cars and trucks and trains. And yet this morning, they found incredible happiness in a few very simple toys and socks. It is a reminder that gift-giving doesn't have to be an eventful to-do. The real meaning of gift-giving is to give from the heart, and to receive with joy.