Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Feast of St. Nicholas

Blessed feast to you. Most people can't help but love St. Nicholas, and he is special to James and me because he was the patron of the church where we began inquiring about the Orthodox faith. We try to go there to celebrate the feast each year. Since James is working 50-60 hours a week right now, rather than going there for liturgy today, we went on Sunday when they had a meal in honor of their Patron. It turned out to be a good thing, because today would not have been a good day for me to be in the car.
I thought it would be fun to share a bit of the tradition of St. Nicholas with my co-workers this year. I made up these little bags of  "gold" to take them. Each one contains chocolate coins, a clementine and some mini candy canes. The bags are actually just squares cut from a T-shirt tied with ribbon. I like to re-purpose things for wrapping, and the simple bags are meant to evoke the bags of gold St. Nicholas is said to have given for dowries. According to tradition, St. Nicholas anonymously tossed a bag of gold into the window of an impoverished family on three different occasions, for each of three daughters. This saved the girls from being sold into slavery or prostitution. The bags of gold are said to have landed in the shoes of the girls set out by the fire to dry, and that's the basis of the tradition of setting out shoes or stockings to be filled with gifts on this feast and at Christmas time.
To personalize them for my co-workers, I made these salt dough gift tags/Christmas tree ornaments. I got the idea for them on Pinterest, where I kept seeing lovely ones like this:

It seemed simple enough, but isn't that always the way with crafts? I made some, and I think they're pretty cute, but they are a lot more rustic and homemade looking than what I was envisioning. It's true that they are simple enough to make. You just mix 2 parts flour to 1 part water and 1 part salt to make the dough. For little tags like these 1/2 tablespoon for each part times however many tags you want should about do it, with a little extra for mistakes. I definitely made mistakes!  Stamping letters backwards, not allowing enough room for the whole name...I started over several times. Once you've mixed as much dough as you need, knead it a little, roll it out about a quarter inch thick, cut your shapes, then stamp away. I stamped them on one side with my co-workers' names and the other side with a decorative stamp. The Christmasy stamps were part of the bounty from my mom's basement when she and my dad downsized their house, and the letter stamps I've had since I was a kid. The ribbon for the hangers is from my wedding. Spur of the moment crafters benefit from a slight tendency to hoard things. :)
So after I stamped them, I poked holes in them with the insert to a ball point pen and then I baked them at 325 for about a half hour. I've now seen other recipes say to bake at 250, and maybe they wouldn't have browned quite so much if I'd gone that route. I also recommend that you line your baking sheet with foil if it is not pristine, as the salt dough can pick up oil baked onto the sheet (Not that I would know, from experience, ahem.) Once they were cool, I gave them a few coats of Modge Podge for preservation, and I threaded some ribbon through them as hangers. I tied them to my little bags, and they're ready to go.
Naturally, I planned to give them to my co-workers today, but I'll keep it real by disclosing that I completely forgot to give them out! I spent the morning in a meeting with librarians from other libraries, and then had to leave work with a migraine. I'll have to pass them out tomorrow. I've only had a few migraines in my life, thankfully. I came home and slept, and I feel fine now.


  1. I love the little bags you made. I will remember this for next year. Thanks!

  2. Hi Sarah!

    I adore your little bags and ornaments! Fabulous! I'm not very crafty but think I could actually swing those. Thanks for the inspiration. I also love that you shared the joy of the Feast with your co-workers. A blessed Advent to you!

  3. Oooh, I like your ornaments very much.

    However, I make ornaments every year, and I know *exactly* what you mean - the ones in my head are always much more professional than the ones that come out of my workshop :)

  4. What a nice idea...I love the cloth and how you tied them up!
    Today, we're celebrating St. Nicholas and there is something very warming hearing about his life and good deeds...he is an example to us all!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts--I love hearing from you!