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St. Nicholas of Myra is a popular Christian Saint among children across Europe because of his reputation as a bringer of gifts. Both the North American Santa Claus and the British Father Christmas are legendary figures whose attributes derive from the myths surrounding St. Nicholas.
What Do People Do?
St. Nicholas Day is a popular occasion for children in many parts of Europe because children usually receive gifts on this day. Some European cities such as Bari, Italy recognize St. Nicholas as the patron saint and celebrate with different activities such as gift-giving, parades, feasts and festivals.
St. Nicholas is referred to by many names throughout Europe such as Sinterklaas in the Netherlands or Nikolaus in Germany. In the days leading up to December 6, children throughout Europe put their shoes or a special St. Nicholas boot in front of the fireplace or the front door at night to find them filled with small presents the next morning. A larger amount of gifts is usually brought on the eve of St. Nicholas Day or December 5.
St. Nicholas Day is a religious observance but not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The legendary figure of St. Nicholas is derived from Nicholas of Myra who officiated as a bishop in 4th century Greece. During his lifetime he developed a reputation for gift-giving by putting coins in other people’s shoes, which accounts for many of today’s Christmas traditions that involve leaving gifts in shoes or boots.
Having inspired both the figure of the North American Santa Claus and the British Father Christmas, St. Nicholas has in some countries been more recently joined on his visits to children’s homes by an evil companion who punishes the naughty ones: in Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and northern Italy, this personification of evil is called Krampus, in Germany Knecht Ruprecht, and in the Netherlands Zwarte Piet.
Other Names and Languages
EnglishSaint Nicholas DayFrenchSaint-NicolasGermanNikolaustagHungarianTélapó MikulásSpanishDía de San Nicolás
When you feel down and out, Make your soul jump up and about. Do something kind for someone or something It will surely make you sing. Life is rewarding when we start to shine Give to less fortunate be meek and kind. If you can’t spread a rainbow At least be the pot of gold, you know. For whoever finds you will find a treasure And whoever knows you, it will be a pleasure. The world has a way of putting clouds of gray in a person’s day Try and be the one who can lessen that in a small way. When you are feeling down and out, Take care of others and you will eventually stop your pout.
INGREDIENTS Cake 2 sticks butter, softened 1 3/4 cups sugar 3 eggs + 2 egg whites 3 tsp vanilla 3 cups all-purpose flour 3 1/2 tsp baking powder One 1.34oz box instant, sugar-free banana pudding mix 1 cup milk Filling: Whisk together the following ingredients and refrigerate until assembling cake (~10minutes). One 1.34oz box instant, sugar-free vanilla pudding mix 1 1/4 cups skim milk 1 cup Cool Whip (or whipped cream) To brush on layers: Mix together the following: 1 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk 1 Tbsp skim milk You’ll also need: 2-3 medium ripe bananas 3-4 cups Cool Whip for frosting
Step 1: Make the cake Preheat oven to 350 F. Prep three 8″ round pans by lining the bottom only with parchment paper. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in eggs and egg whites, one at a time. Beat in vanilla until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and pudding mix. Add into wet ingredients in three separate additions, mixing until just combined. Don’t over mix! Stir in milk until combined. Divide batter and pour into pans. Bake 22-25 minutes or until cake is golden and begins to pull away from sides of pans. Allow cake to cool 15 minutes in pan. Loosen and remove from pan. Allow to cool another 1-2 hours on a wire rack. Step 2: Begin layering Level each cake. Place first layer on cake plate. Brush with a little milk mixture. Line banana slices on top of cake. Spread 1/3-1/2 of the filling mix on top of bananas. Place next cake layer on top of filling. Repeat with milk mix, filling, and final layer. Step 3: Frost This is the fun part. Frost with Cool Whip and decorate as you wish. I crushed some mini Nilla wafers and spread on top. Then used the wafers along the sides. Whew! Sounds super complicated, but it was simple to make. You may also want to put some Nilla wafers in between the layers. You know, if you’re feeling extra fancy and decadent. Very important!!: Store this cake in the fridge!! Lots of perishable ingredients. You’ve been warned, so I’m off the hook if you don’t refrigerate and get sick. This may be a new family favorite. It’s definitely not a “good for you” cake, but this was a very special occasion. Everyone loved it, too! My nieces especially enjoyed picking off and eating the Nilla wafers.
Believe it or not, lemon juice can be used to scrub stains out of just about anything, including hard to clean plastic.
Have a scratch in your hardwood floor? It only takes some buffing with a walnut to make the mark practically vanish. The oils in the nut help to smooth out the streak and fill the crack.
If you have a pet, then you know the annoyance of finding hair or fur everywhere. A rubber glove is just what you need to keep everything clean. Rub one along the surface of your couch, and the hair will adhere to the sticky surface.
Soap scum shaver
If you have a glass shower, keeping it clean and free from soap scum can be a challenge. The trick? Use some shaving cream to buff out stains. All you need is a bottle of the foamy stuff and a damp cloth.
Giving your car a new paint job to fix a couple scratches or chips can be super expensive. To prevent rusting until you can afford the repair, dab the areas with clear nail polish to seal the paint. (Note: this hack won’t work if rusting has already started.) You can also use coloured nail polish to touch the spot up.
Blenders are a beast to clean thanks to their sharp blades. The solution? Pour some soap and water into the appliance, then blend on high. Allow it to run for 30 seconds, then rinse with fresh water.
Water stains are loathed by coaster lovers everywhere, but the good news is they’re generally easy to get rid of. You just have to wipe a bit of mayo along the surface with a damp cloth. Olive oil and salt also works.
Baked-on gunk is a menace to dirty pans and baking sheets. To clean with minimal elbow grease, soak the dish with water and a nontoxic, biodegradable dryer sheet. The sheet will help loosen the grime.
Get streak-free windows by buffing them with a coffee filter or newspaper. Simply spray a solution of water and vinegar on the surface then shine away.
Raise your hand if you hate scrubbing gross, baked-on goo from your microwave? To get the appliance glistening, warm a bowl of lemon and water for five minutes, then let stand for another five. You’ll be able to wipe dirt away with a paper towel.
If you have some dirty hand marks or fingerprints on your walls, removing them is as simple as rubbing them with an old piece of white bread.
Kid mess cleaner
Don’t have a piece of bread? Baby oil can perform the same fingerprint-removing or crayon-clearing feat. The substance also works particularly well on stainless steel.
There are a lot of chemicals in air and fabric fresheners, but one substance can perform the same trick in an all-natural way: vodka. Simply mix some of the alcohol with water and a few drops of essential oil. Spray on fabric to give it new life.
Who knew old newspapers could be so handy? Scrunch them up to soak up the oil in a pan before scrubbing it clean with some soap and water.
Remember that science experiment from elementary school in which you used coke to clean pennies? The same trick applies to stains in your toilet. Simply pour some cola into the bowl, let sit for about an hour, and scrub clean. Kool-Aid also works.
Stale smell solver
Towels can grow musty and mouldy after a while. The trick to making them smell as good as new is as simple as a vinegar bath. Pour vinegar and water into your washing machine instead of detergent, rinse, then dry. Your towels will be clean as can be.
A little-known trick to getting stains out of just about anything is to reach for a damp cloth and iron. Set the iron on high heat, lay the damp cloth over the stains, and press the iron on top. The heat will lift the stain, leaving your carpet or couch clean. (Note: do not use a coloured cloth for this task. It could leach colour onto your carpet.)
You could reach for a chemical-filled product to buff out watermarks on your bathroom mirror… or you could use some vodka and baking soda (some people use cornstarch instead). Pour some of each into a bottle, spray on the surface, and watch everything from glass to silverware shine.
Simple slat solution
The little slats of an air vent can be hard to scrub clean. Try wrapping a butter knife in a damp cloth then running it along each slat to get the job done in seconds. To add some disinfection into the mix, soak the cloth in vinegar first.
Nooks and crannies
The worst part of buying fresh flowers is that algae that can form in hard to reach places in the vase. The trick to easily getting it clean? Toss some vinegar with a bit of rice and pour the mixture into the vase. Let it sit, then swish around. The rice will scrub the glass clean.
A Hint for Next Christmas is Milne’s essay about the merits of small gifts and rethinking the custom of Christmas cards. Published in his collection, If I May in 1920, and featured in Off-Beat Christmas Stories
There has been some talk lately of the standardization of golf balls, but a more urgent reform is the standardization of Christmas presents. It is no good putting this matter off; let us take it in hand now, so that we shall be in time for next Christmas.
My crusade is on behalf of those who spend their Christmas away from home. Last year I returned (with great difficulty) from such an adventure and I am more convinced than ever that Christmas presents should conform to a certain standard of size. My own little offerings were thoughtfully chosen. A match-box, a lace handkerchief or two, a cigarette-holder, a pencil and note-book, Gems from Wilcox, and so on; such gifts not only bring pleasure (let us hope) to the recipient, but take up a negligible amount of room in one’s bag, and add hardly anything to the weight of it. Of course, if your fellow-visitor says to you, “How sweet of you to give me such a darling little handkerchief–it’s just what I wanted–how ever did you think of it?” you do not reply, “Well, it was a choice between that and a hundredweight of coal, and I’ll give you two guesses why I chose the handkerchief.” No; you smile modestly and say, “As soon as I saw it, I felt somehow that it was yours”; after which you are almost in a position to ask your host casually where he keeps the mistletoe.
But it is almost a certainty that the presents you receive will not have been chosen with such care. Probably the young son of the house has been going in for carpentry lately, and in return for your tie-pin he gives you a wardrobe of his own manufacture. You thank him heartily, you praise its figure, but all the time you are wishing that it had chosen some other occasion. Your host gives you a statuette or a large engraving; somebody else turns up with a large brass candle-stick. It is all very gratifying, but you have got to get back to London somehow, and, thankful though you are not to have received the boar-hound or parrot-in-cage which seemed at one time to be threatening, you cannot help wishing that the limits of size for a Christmas present had been decreed by some authority who was familiar with the look of your dressing-case.
Obviously, too, there should be a standard value for a certain type of Christmas present. One may give what one will to one’s own family or particular friends; that is all right. But in a Christmas house-party there is a pleasant interchange of parcels, of which the string and the brown paper and the kindly thought are the really important ingredients, and the gift inside is nothing more than an excuse for these things. It is embarrassing for you if Jones has apologized for his brown paper with a hundred cigars, and you have only excused yourself with twenty-five cigarettes; perhaps still more embarrassing if it is you who have lost so heavily on the exchange. An understanding that the contents were to be worth five shillings exactly would avoid this embarassment.
And now I am reminded of the ingenuity of a friend of mine, William by name, who arrived at a large country house for Christmas without any present in his bag. He had expected neither to give nor to receive anything, but to his horror he discovered on the 24th that everybody was preparing a Christmas present for him, and that it was taken for granted that he would require a little privacy and brown paper on Christmas Eve for the purpose of addressing his own offerings to others. He had wild thoughts of telegraphing to London for something to be sent down, and spoke to other members of the house-party in order to discover what sort of presents would be suitable.
“What are you giving our host P” he asked one of them.
“Mary and I are giving him a book,” said John, referring to his wife.
William then approached the youngest son of the house, and discovered that he and his next brother Dick were sharing in this, that, and the other. When he had heard this, William retired to his room and thought profoundly. He was the first down to breakfast on Christmas morning. All the places at the table were piled high with presents. He looked at John’s place. The top parcel said, “To John and Mary from Charles.” William took out his fountain-pen and added a couple of words to the inscription. It then read, “To John and Mary from Charles and William,” and in William’s opinion looked just as effective as before. He moved on to the next place. “To Angela from Father,” said the top parcel. “And William,” wrote William. At his hostess’ place he hesitated for a moment. The first present there was for “Darling Mother, from her loving children.” It did not seem that an “and William” was quite suitable. But his hostess was not to be deprived of William’s kindly thought; twenty seconds later the handkerchiefs “from John and Mary and William” expressed all the nice things which he was feeling for her. He passed on to the next place….
It is, of course, impossible to thank every donor of a joint gift; one simply thanks the first person whose eye one happens to catch. Sometimes William’s eye was caught, sometimes not. But he was spared all embarrassment; and I can recommend his solution of the problem with perfect confidence to those who may be in a similar predicament next Christmas.
There is a minor sort of Christmas present about which also a few words must be said; I refer to the Christmas card.
The Christmas card habit is a very pleasant one, but it, too, needs to be disciplined. I doubt if many people understand its proper function. This is partly the result of our bringing up; as children we were allowed (quite rightly) to run wild in the Christmas card shop, with one of two results. Either we still run wild, or else the reaction has set in and we avoid the Christmas card shop altogether. We convey our printed wishes for a happy Christmas to everybody or to nobody. This is a mistake. In our middle-age we should discriminate.
The child does not need to discriminate. It has two shillings in the hand and about twenty-four relations. Even in my time two shillings did not go far among twenty-four people. But though presents were out of the question, one could get twenty-four really beautiful Christmas cards for the money, and if some of them were ha’penny ones, then one could afford real snow on a threepenny one for the most important uncle, meaning by “most important,” perhaps (but I have forgotten now), the one most likely to be generous in return. Of the fun of choosing those twenty-four cards I need not now speak, nor of the best method of seeing to it that somebody else paid for the necessary twenty-four stamps. But certainly one took more trouble in suiting the tastes of those who were to receive the cards than the richest and most leisured grown-up would take in selecting a diamond necklace for his wife’s stocking or motor-cars for his sons-in-law. It was not only a question of snow, but also of the words in which the old, old wish was expressed. If the aunt who was known to be fond of poetry did not get something suitable from Eliza Cook, one might regard her Christmas as ruined. How could one grudge the trouble necessary to make her Christmas really happy for her? One might even explore the fourpenny box.
But in middle-age–by which I mean anything over twenty and under ninety–one knows too many people. One cannot give them a Christmas card each; there is not enough powdered glass to go round. One has to discriminate, and the way in which most of us discriminate is either to send no cards to anybody or else to send them to the first twenty or fifty or hundred of our friends (according to our income and energy) whose names come into our minds. Such cards are meaningless; but if we sent our Christmas cards to the right people, we could make the simple words upon them mean something very much more than a mere wish that the recipient’s Christmas shall be “merry” (which it will be anyhow, if he likes merriness) and his New Year “bright” (which, let us hope, it will not be).
“A merry Christmas,” with an old church in the background and a robin in the foreground, surrounded by a wreath of holly-leaves. It might mean so much. What I feel that it ought to mean is something like this:–
“You live at Potters Bar aStnd I live at Petersham. Of course, if we did happen to meet at the Marble Arch one day, it would be awfully jolly, and we could go and have lunch together somewhere, and talk about old times. But our lives have drifted apart since those old days. It is partly the fault of the train-service, no doubt. Glad as I should be to see you, I don’t like to ask you to come all the way to Petersham to dinner, and if you asked me to Potters Bar–well, I should come, but it would be something of a struggle, and I thank you for not asking me. Besides, we have made different friends now, and our tastes are different. After we had talked about the old days, I doubt if we should have much to say to each other. Each of us would think the other a bit of a bore, and our wives would wonder why we had ever been friends at Liverpool. But don’t think I have forgotten you. I just send this card to let you know that I am still alive, still at the same address, and that I still remember you. No need, if we ever do meet, or if we ever want each other’s help, to begin by saying: ‘I suppose you have quite forgotten those old days at Liverpool.’ We have neither of us forgotten; and so let us send to each other, once a year, a sign that we have not forgotten, and that once upon a time we were friends. ‘A merry Christmas to you.’”
That is what a Christmas card should say. It is absurd to say this to a man or woman whom one is perpetually ringing up on the telephone; to somebody whom one met last week or with whom one is dining the week after; to a man whom one may run across at the club on almost any day, or a woman whom one knows to shop daily at the same stores as oneself. It is absurd to say it to a correspondent to whom one often writes. Let us reserve our cards for the old friends who have dropped out of our lives, and let them reserve their cards for us.
But, of course, we must have kept their addresses; otherwise we have to print our cards publicly–as I am doing now. “Old friends will please accept this, the only intimation.”
This essay is featured in our collection of Off-Beat Christmas Stories. If you enjoyed it, try H.H. Munro (SAKI)’s story, Reginald on Christmas Presents
One of the worst things about having a cold is congestion—because when you can’t breathe through your nose, it’s hard to sleep comfortably, and sleep is the best way to get better faster, along with drinking fluids. Here are some remedies to try to relive a stuffy nose.
Remedy for a Stuffy Nose: Warming Socks Treatment
This traditional hydrotherapy has been used for centuries as a way to fight nighttime nasal congestion. Shortly before bed, wet and freeze a pair of thin, cotton ankle socks. Before you do this treatment, make sure your feet and body are warm. Put the socks on straight from the freezer, then cover them with a thicker pair of woolen socks. Go straight to bed and cover up.
“This treatment pulls congestion from the head through some simple hydrotherapy and thermodynamics principles,” says Dr. Heather Tynan, ND. “First, there is a cooling, constricting effect, and then the opposite. The cold stimulus to the feet causes vasoconstriction there, which pushes blood to the vital organs. The body then proceeds to try to re-warm the feet, the vessels there dilate again, and the ultimate effect is a drawing of fluids farther from the head which helps relieve congestion.”
. Remedy for a Stuffy Nose: Chicken Soup
Chicken soup is legitimately good for colds. “Chicken soup contains certain chemicals that may turn down the level of inflammation in your nasal passages from a cold,” says Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, MD, FIDSA, Senior Scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. A study in the journal Chest looked at the movement of white blood cells called neutrophils when combined with soup. The cells exposed to chicken soup showed significantly less movement, which suggested anti-inflammatory properties. Chicken soup (especially the homemade kind) is packed with nutrients, feels good on a sore throat and is a great way to stay hydrated, too.
Remedy for a Stuffy Nose: Peppermint
Peppermint and its main active ingredient, menthol, can help relieve your stuffy nose. “Steam treatments with peppermint oil can help clear congestion,” says Carrie Lam MD. “Boil a pot of hot water and add 1-2 drops of peppermint oil. Cover your head with a hot towel, then stand over the pot and breathe in the vapor.”
The Symptom: Headache
When your head is pounding and you’ve already taken your Tylenol, what else can you try? Here are recommendations from the experts.
Remedy for Headache: Nasal Irrigation
If you’re one of the millions of Americans dealing with the classic sinus headache that comes with a cold, try out a Neti Pot. This technique has been used for centuries to flush out excess mucus and dry the nasal passages with a simple mixture of salt and water. Add lukewarm sterilized water and a packet of saline solution to the Neti Pot, then tilt your head sideways and place the spout into the nostril facing the ceiling. Breathe through your open mouth (not your nose or you’ll snort saltwater!) and let the saline solution pour through and drain out of your other nostril. Repeat on the other side, then blow your nose into a clean tissue. “Cleansing with a Neti Pot flushes out the nasal passageways, removing mucus and microbial buildup as it goes,” says Dr. Tynan. “This effectively reduces the discomfort of congestion while also helping the body clear some of the bugs behind it.” She cautions that it’s vital to sterilize your water before using this technique because microbes present in tap water can lead to even more health problems.
Remedy for Headache: Acupressure
Used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, acupressure is a little like a massage—but the practitioner focuses on acupressure points on the body to activate healing. The good news is, if you don’t want to drag yourself out of your bedroom for an acupressure session, there is a technique you can try yourself. “For sinus and front of face headaches, I use the Large Intestine 4 pressure point,” says Dr. Tom Ingegno DACM, MSOM, LAC. This point is located in the webbing between your index finger and thumb “It should be sore and pressure should be applied moderately toward the bone, hold for at least 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.” Stimulate the Large Intestine 4 pressure point alternately to help clear up congestion and relieve sinus headaches. Don’t try it if you’re pregnant—experts note this pressure point should not be activated during pregnancy.
Remedy for Headache: Hydration
Drinking enough water is one of the best things you can do to relieve sinus pressure. Your body needs to be hydrated to function properly, and headaches can come on when you’re low on H20. “I find that rest and hydration are half the battle when I start feeling sick,” says functional medicine nurse practitioner Cynthia Thurlow, NP. “A little extra rest combined with hydration helps kick your cold fast.”
The Symptom: Sore Throat
When your throat is raw and sore, you can’t help but feel terrible. Here are doctor-recommended ways to feel better fast.
The Remedy for a Sore Throat: Honey Loquat Syrup
This traditional Chinese medicinal remedy dates back to the Han Dynasty (25 A.D.). It combines honey with loquat, a pear-shaped Asian fruit. Unlike most fruit trees, loquat bloom in fall and winter. The honey and loquat act together as a sore throat soother, especially when mixed with hot water to drink. “Loquat is ‘cooling’ according to East Asian Medicine, helping reduce the soreness,” says Dr. Ingegno
The Remedy for a Sore Throat: Saltwater Gargle
Saltwater gargles are a time-honored way to soothe a sore throat—and there is science to back it up. It’s an anti-inflammatory hero that actually draws fluids from the tissues and reduces inflammation when you’re sick. And it might help you avoid getting sick in the first place. A clinical study from Japan showed that gargling salt water can reduce the chance of catching a cold up 40 percent. The best part is, it’s easy to make at home—add half a teaspoon of table salt to warm water. Then take a big sip and gargle by swishing in your throat and mouth for at least 30 seconds, then spit it out. Keep going until your cup is dry.
The Remedy for a Sore Throat: Turmeric
Turmeric is a member of the potent ginger family and is well known for its beneficial health properties. It’s a spice that’s commonly used in Asian dishes – you might recognize it as the main flavor in curry. Turmeric contains the chemical curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that is thought to decrease inflammation. “The symptoms of a cold are due to the body’s natural immune system trying to fight it off,” says functional and integrative medicine physician Dr. Yeral Patel, MD. “Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory are great for calming down congestion, headaches and sore throat.”
The Symptom: Cough
Hacking and coughing that just won’t quit are irritating to you (and everyone around you). Try these remedies to calm your cough.
The Remedy for a Cough: Ginger Tea
Beyond its use as a spice in traditional baking, ginger has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for all sorts of ailments. Ginger contains high levels of antioxidants and antibacterial properties that can help fight off infection, and is often used to reduce coughs brought on by the common cold. “Ginger tea also contains powerful antioxidants including oleoresin, which act as a natural cough suppressant,” says Dr. Kelly Bay. The medicinal properties of ginger are found in its essential oils, antioxidants, and compounds called phenyl alkyl ketones. That and hot cup of tea feels good to drink when you’re under the weather.
The Remedy for a Cough: Pineapple Juice
The next time you have a cough, try drinking pineapple juice. “Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that helps thin mucus,” says Dr. Tynan. “It’s also high in Vitamin C, and can help with a wet cough. Remember, though, that it’s not always appropriate to stop a cough. Unless the cough is quite uncomfortable, keeping you from sleep, or dangerous for another reason, it’s often best to let the body do what it needs to in order to heal.”
The Remedy for a Cough: Manuka Honey
Since ancient times, people have known about the antibacterial and healing properties of honey. Manuka honey is made by bees in Australia and New Zealand that pollinate the native manuka bush, and is often used for medicinal purposes. Adding a teaspoon of it to your cup of tea can soothe your throat and make you feel a little bit better.
“Manuka honey is anti-microbial that fights inflammation in the tissues lining the respiratory tract. It is helpful in treating dry, raspy, irritated coughs,” says Dr. Tynan. Research suggests that honey can be an effective cough suppressant in children, too. A Pediatrics study of 300 children with upper-respiratory infections found that a single dose of 10 g of honey relieved nocturnal cough and helped them sleep. Just never give honey to a child under one year old—it often contains botulinum spores, which can cause a rare kind of poisoning of the nervous system in infants.