The invitation to my holiday party this year read as follows:
Do you open presents on Christmas eve?
Did your grandma give you the family recipe for latkes?
Is there a holiday tradition you have always wanted to adopt?
For the past two years, I have planned a St. Nicholas Day celebration. This is a time to gather with friends, eat, drink, and be merry. Whether it involves food, games, or a story where a devilish looking man kidnaps the bad kids, I invite you to come and share your holiday tradition. Bring a treat to share, libations to drink, or just come with all the holiday cheer you can muster.
I embrace St. Nicholas Day (Sankt Nikolaus Tag which is December 6),
and in the spirit of hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree and eating marzipan,
I hope to see you on December 13.
When I moved to Boulder, I wanted to celebrate with the family I was building out here. Sankt Nikolaus Tag was the way to welcome others into my home. That first year, we got to know each other over gluten-free cut-outs and Secret Santa. The guests, mostly graduate students in the MFA program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, took a chance and drew names from a hat. The gift was capped at $10, and if it was homemade, even better. What I received made me almost tear instantly.
I collect Peter Pan books. Given to me in December 2012,
this one was printed in 1940.
Someone was listening. I had only known these people for a few months, but they were already finding their way into my heart. The inscription inside says, "For Wendy, Because, with love from Aunt Karen 5 February 1963." Books hold a special meaning between the giver and the receiver. Used books collect memories on top of the pages of their story. In this moment, I knew celebrating Sankt Nikolaus Tag would become my tradition.
Each year I plan and bake. Each year I am in a new apartment or house. The only differences year three brought was I was unable to have the party on Sankt Nikolaus Tag (I was performing in a play) and decided that Secret Santa was too stressful. I wanted to focus on trying new recipes.
I created a master spreadsheet of all of the ingredients required to bake Stollen (German fruitcake), sugar cookies, red velvet peanut butter blossoms, and peppermint truffles. All treats gluten-free of course, the added challenges were that I have never made Stollen, I was using a new sugar cookie recipe, and I had never made peppermint truffles. I was feeling adventurous.
With the party on Saturday, December 13, I planned my baking schedule to commence on Thursday. Step one of the Stollen was to soak the fruit and nuts in spiced rum over night.
With the first step out of the way, I decided to make the truffles. I used all gluten-free and vegan ingredients, and popped them in the fridge to be rolled in crushed candy cane on Saturday. The truffles would then be placed in little Santa bags and remain out of sight until Sankt Nikolaus put them in the shoes of all the good party guests.
I was ready to start baking on Friday morning, but nothing ever goes as planned. I knew there would be something I didn't account for. This time around, I forgot to buy butter. I allowed my yeast to rise and ran to the store for more Earth Balance. I let the Stollen rise in a warm oven for an hour, watched cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix, and began making cut out cookies. After the Stollen was done (a little over-done--I burnt the bottoms and told all of my guests to eat the tops), I popped the cut-outs in the oven. The recipe I used this year was from Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking. Although the cookies were good, even making a double batch didn't satisfy my cut-out cravings. While the little Christmas trees and stockings cooled, I made red velvet peanut butter blossoms. I simply substituted Cara's All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend from Decadent Baking for the "normal" flour. My blossoms did not look as delightful as these ones. The problem with vegan butter spreads, and perhaps living at 5,430 feet, is that they can be too oily. This causes the cookies to spread, becoming flat, crispy cookies, or one giant crispy cookie sheet. Option number one is what became of my red velvet blossoms, though they were still edible.
Saturday I frosted the cut-outs, rolled the truffles in candy canes, and generally prepared for the party (one of my roommates cleaned EVERYTHING. I am grateful that he was around to vacuum up all the dog hair and get the fireplace ready). I set the table and waited.
I labeled the dishes and was happy with my spread.
While listening to a playlist I titled "Sankt Nikolaus Tag Party" and waiting for 7 p.m. to arrive, I began receiving updates about the protesting going on in Boulder. Though a peaceful protest, two people were arrested. Many of my friends are speaking out. As they arrived at my house, fueled from the events of the day, I told them they better make me their emergency contact. Personally, conversation and staying up-to-date with media is how I am engaging with current events, but I want my friends to be supported. I want them to know I will help them if I can.
Part of helping them was having a party. I let them all speak. I played hostess and offered them cookies and wine. Having a party was not silly--it was necessary. Despite what is going on in the world, we have to remember that we are still living. We can still have moments of happiness. The Sankt Nikolaus Tag party offered that happiness, if only for a few hours.
For more holiday photos, visit the Type & Cakes Facebook page.