The tradition is that children put out their shoes the night before and Saint Nicolas puts cookies in them for morning. We could never go quite that far because our little four legged friends also find these cookies quite tasty.
The legends of Bishop Nicolas tell about his generosity to the poor and needy and are sometimes a little gruesome, which I think makes them especially fun to read. These stories are meant to inspire us, so we can feel the spirit of St. Nicolas within ourselves and do something a little special for someone today with out their knowing.
Every year I make these delicious spice cookies for St Nicolas Day. Now my grown kids, filled with the spirit of St. Nicolas, join in and make them too. These are great cookies with tea and if kept in a tin will last through the holidays.
To make the St. Nicolas, I took a large metal gingerbread man cookie cutter and bent the top of his head to make the pointed bishop hat and changed the shape of the legs to make his robe and boots, using pliers makes the job much easier. I have several paper clips that I have bent into shapes to stamp the edge of his hat and the wiggly line for the beard. I use a (Japanese) pointed chop stick to makes his eyes and nose and a (Chinese) flat end chopstick to make the buttons on his robe. We always make some hands with spirals and hearts on them also, to symbolize creativity and love.
Mix in order
1 C shortening
2 C white sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 C flour
4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cloves
Turn out on floured board kneed in about 1 cup more flour or as much as you need until dough is no longer sticky and is easy to handle.
Put into plastic bag and refrigerate until chilled. Roll dough thinly for small cutout cookies. 1/4 inch thickness for larger.
Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheet at 350° until golden-brown. I usually check them at 10-12 minutes and bake a few minutes longer if needed. I think crisper are better for these cookies.
May the spirit of St. Nicolas be with you today.