It’s the Holiday Season! Yay! How time flies! It feels like just a couple months ago me and Jack O’Lantern were blogging through October. Um, actually, I guess it was. Anyway, you can expect a few holiday posts here before the new year starts. I promise we won’t get co-opted by Santa Claus or anything, though. The Halloween thing was enough.
Anyway, people often have different opinions on when the holiday season starts. Thanksgiving? Black Friday? December 1st? However, most people would agree that the season includes Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s. However, one could argue that another holiday occupies the holiday season. That would be Saint Nicholas Day which falls on December 6th, which was just two days ago.
Now, a little background on Saint Nicholas. He was the bishop of
in Asia Minor.
After he was canonized, he became recognized as the patron saint of
sailors, merchants, archers, schools and children. A number of different European cultures
observed Saint Nicholas Day. It was
believed that on that day, Saint Nicholas would travel around the world and
leave gifts for children in their shoes.
Over time, this tradition would start getting worked in with other
traditions having to do with Christmas or New Year’s. Anyway, one of the cultures that observed
this tradition was that of the Dutch, who called Saint Nicholas
“Sinterklaas”. They even brought the
tradition with them to the New World when they settled what would become .
That is where the story of “The
Baker’s Dozen” begins. New York State
Now, the story starts in the early days of
back when it was still known as Beverwyck.
In this town, there lived a baker named Volckert Jan Pietersen Van
Amsterdam (we’ll just call him Van Amsterdam for short). It was around New Year’s (the tradition having
started to shift already) and he was baking gingerbread cookies in the shape of
Saint Nicholas for the New Year. Now,
this day, a witch walks in. She comes to
the counter and asks for a dozen Saint Nicholas cookies. Van Amsterdam counts her out exactly twelve
cookies. The witch notices this and complains that he stiffed her one cookie
and that a proper dozen is thirteen (the English actually started the original
baker’s dozen tradition because of laws saying a dozen loaves of bread had to
be above a certain weight). Van
Amsterdam then gets into a heated argument with the woman and essentially
shoves the box into her hands saying he would not give her the extra cookie. Upon leaving, the witch cast a curse on the
man and his bakery. Albany, New York
The next week, nothing went right in the bakery. Nothing he baked turned out right. Cakes were stolen from out of his shop window. Some loaves of bread he baked were so light they floated out the chimney. Others were so dense and heavy the broke through the floor. His cookies lost their flavor and his cakes collapsed.
Eventually, the witch came back. Still, Van Amsterdam would not give her a count of thirteen cookies.
After that, it got worse. The poor luck got even worse and even extended to his family. His children would get tears in their clothing for seemingly no reason. Whenever his wife visited the shop, she would be struck by a sudden deafness. It even seemed as if the bakery was haunted by spirits. Customers started to be driven away.
At this point, Van Amsterdam decided to call on some assistance. He prayed to Saint Nicholas. That night he had a vision of the saint and . . . Wait a minute! What am I doing? I’ll give the ending away. I don’t want to do that. Anywaym, if you want to read the story, a good place to find it is on American Folklore’s website where it can be located right HERE.
This story might not be a real fairy tale or even as obscure as some of the others I’ve spotlighted. However, it’s rare that I get to focus on a story that is so close to where I call home. I live in Watervliet, which is just a hop, skip and jump from
. So, I hope you enjoyed this special holiday
Folk Tale Secret Stash. More holiday
goodness is yet to come. Albany