St. Nicholas Cookie Boards

The Story of St. Nicholas

Large St Nicholas cookie board
Sankt Nikolaus, large antique board from Germany
Holland Museum
December 1 – January 31, 2018
Saint Nicholas lived in the 3rd–4th centuries in Greek Asia Minor, an area that is part of modern Turkey. His wealthy parents raised him to be a faithful Christian. While he was still a boy, they died of the plague. As he matured, young Nicholas used all his riches to give aid to those who were less fortunate. While still a young man, he was chosen to be the Bishop of Myra. His many acts of compassion and mercy caused him to be revered as a protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man who had three unmarried daughters. They would have to be sold into slavery because there was no money for the dowries necessary for them to be married. When Nicholas learned of this, he secretly tossed a small pouch of gold into the house so the father could provide the eldest with a dowry. He did this again two more times–once for each daughter. Some say the gold landed in stockings left to dry before the fire, others that it landed in shoes. This is why today some children hang up stockings and others in Europe put out shoes; all are hoping for small gifts.

As stories and legends of good St. Nicholas spread throughout the world, he became the most popular saint and gift-giver. In much of Europe he still visits children on his feast day, December 6th. Many immigrants brought him to North America where he became transformed into our “Santa Claus.” By his care for the most vulnerable, especially children, St. Nicholas lives on as a model for living.

Cookies & St. Nicholas

Ginger spiced cookies are an important part of the feast of Saint Nicholas in Belgium, the Netherlands, and other places, too. These cookies, made to look like St. Nicholas, are special treats for children and adults alike. Beautiful, detailed hand carved wooden molds called “cookie boards” are used to shape the cookies. The dough is pressed into the mold, then the board is banged over the cookie sheet to release the molded cookie.

The cookies are called speculaas in the Netherlands which means a mirror image, such as is made from the mold. They are speculoos in Belgium and speculatius in Germany.

Lobby case with cookie boards
Cookie boards from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, United States & Ukraine
Lobby case with cookie boards
Cookie boards from Belgium
Lobby case with cookie boards
Cookie boards from the Netherlands
Lobby cases
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