Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Three Purses of Gold: A St. Nicholas Story and Recipe

Once there were three beautiful girls who lived with their father. Their father was a poor man and could not afford to give dowries to his daughters. The girls could not marry without a dowry, and employment for young women in those times was difficult to find.

Although each daughter had a suitor, marriage was out of the question because a dowry was needed to start out in married life.

The family's situation grew worse day by day, until finally they became so poor that they had no money for food or clothes. St. Nicholas, who was a bishop in their town, heard about this family. He wanted to help, but he was a shy man.

So one night he went to their house after the family was in bed and asleep. Nicholas put a handful of gold into a little purse and dropped it through an open window, onto the bed of one of the sleeping girls.

The next morning when the father went to wake his daughter he found the little purse.

"How did this come to be here? Daughter, is this your purse?" he asked.

She was an honest girl, and she answered him, "Indeed no, Father. I have no idea who it could belong to."

When the father opened the purse and saw the gold coins, he fell to his knees and wept. He kept only enough of the coins to provide for his family, and gave most of them to the oldest daughter for a dowry. She married her young man that very day among great happiness.

Nicholas returned the next night, and again he dropped a purse of gold coins through the window. This time the purse fell on the bed of the middle daughter, but she was sleeping so soundly she did not wake. In the morning, the father once again found the coins. Again there was great rejoicing and the second daughter received her dowry and was married.

On the third night, the father decided he would learn who the family's benefactor was. He hid in his youngest daughter's bedroom after she went to sleep, and watched. When he saw Nicholas look in the window and drop the purse, he called out, “Thank you for your kindness. Tell me, why do you hide yourself?”

Nicholas pleaded with the father to not tell anyone about his good deeds. The father promised, saying only, "You have brought much happiness to my family. Thank you, good St. Nicholas." So the three girls were married, and lived long and happy lives with their husbands.

Various versions of this story can be found on many Internet sites. I like this one because of the details and the accompanying pictures it offers. not to mention that it also includes recipes, like this Black Forest "Good Works" Cake. This would be a good treat to make on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day.

Black Forest 'Good Works' Cake

To make: divide brownie dough in half.
Spread 1/2 in an 8" round cake pan (greased) and the other 1/2 in a second 8" round cake pan. (greased)
Bake as directed.
Cool both cakes.
Place one cake on decorated plate.
Pour 1/2 of the thick chocolate or fudge sauce over the bottom cake and then cover with 1/2 can of cherries.
Place other brownie cake on top.
Right before serving, pour remainder of Chocolate/fudge sauce over top. Cover with remainder of cherries and almonds. Serve with lots of whipped cream!

Recipe Source: St. Michael the Archangel Online

Gifts for St. Nicholas Day
are a custom in many places in the world. It was something I looked forward to as a child. Although in some places the gifts are placed in shoes, ours were always laid by our places at the dinner table. The gifts were small and inexpensive, but it was exciting to see the little packages, and to us they were harbingers of the Christmas soon to come.

1 comment:

Nanjemoy Nana said...

I remember our St Nick's gifts. You are so right. It was indeed a herald for the coming of our Christmas. Mum and Dad did an amazing job with all 13 children. We learned the religious and the family meaning of the season. It was by turns, magical, hushed, exciting, brilliant and sweet.

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