For the 50th straight year, the Rockland County Historical Society held its St. Nicholas Day celebration on Saturday.
Three times on Saturday, and Sunday, groups of kids went into the Jacob Blauvelt House in New City, took off a shoe and sat in the main room while Joyce DeSousa told them stories about the role of in Dutch culture. Much like Santa, St. Nicholas brings gifts to children, who leave him snacks. Tradition says kids leave things like carrots and beans in their shoes in front of the chimney the night before St. Nicholas Day, and when they wake up, they’ll find a present inside their shoes. When DeSousa was done with her portion of event, the kids retrieved their shoes to find bags of gold coin chocolates in each shoe.
DeSousa told the kids a few St. Nicholas stories and then had them read a saying over a few times. The saying was “Nicholas I beg of you/ Drop to my little shoe/ Something sweet or sweeter/ Thank you, Saint and Peter.” DeSousa told the kids that Peter was the name of St. Nicholas’ helper.
DeSousa has been involved with the St. Nicholas Day celebration at the Historical Society since the mid-1990s, and has volunteered with the Society since the mid-1980s.
“I’m a retired school teacher, so it’s great to have all the kids come in,” she said. “It really makes my day, my year even.”
After the kids read the saying a few times, getting louder on each reading, there was a knock from the back of the room. DeSousa invited the person in, and it turned out to be St. Nicholas himself dressed in his red cloak and hat.
He invited the kids outside to meet his horse, Snow Dancer. After the kids put back on their shoes, and enjoyed some ginger cookies and warm apple cider courtesy of the Historical Society, they ran out to see, pet and take pictures with the horse.
Twins Aaron and Aiden Mills, four years old, of Suffern, were excited to meet the horse. Their mother, Annie Mills, said she found out about the event from a coworker. Aaron said he didn’t know about the story of St. Nicholas before the event.
“I think it’s very important to broaden their horizons,” their mother said. “I try to expose them to different cultural events around the county.”