6 December 2007

Butter Tart Squares..Happy St. Nicholas Day!!!!

The countdown to Christmas has begun....only 18 days, 18 hours, 27 minutes and 43 seconds left as we speak...42, 41, 40......

It is my favourite holiday season with all its overabundance. I love everything about the holidays with each of us having our own traditions.

When I was a child our lives were filled with holiday preparations. We are of a British background but adopted traditions from other countries, like most families, of Christmas trees and Advent calendars. We would help mom make the Christmas goodies and then on Christmas Eve we hung our stockings and our pillow cases at the end of our bed. In the morning both would be under the tree stuffed full of goodies. You could hardly contain our excitement!! Santa had stuffed our pillow case with all manner of toys and goodies and our stockings were overflowing with chocolate coins, Dutch chocolate shoes, chocolate letters and Terry's chocolate oranges. My parents were before their time and were a reuse/recycle family even then because with the use of a pillow case there was no wrapping paper to be found except on the presents we gave to each other and wrapped so lovingly. We would look out the window and hope for snow that we could go tobogganing and skiing in the afternoon...quite often we had a green Christmas just as we do now.

Over the years we have developed our own family traditions in food and celebration with our own daughter. We still do the Advent calendar..but I always put up a real tree despite the mess. My tree will go up this weekend and I will be sweeping it out of the house by New Years Day...I LOVE it!!! Traditionally we have a Tortiere as a little celebration for our "tree trimming party". I once tried to make tortiere for Christmas Eve and my daughter revolted wanting the traditional Cheese Fondue and Chocolate Fondue. It was traditional and I didn't even know it!

We hang our stockings which these days are filled with more practical things and less figure altering chocolates. I still have a Terry's Chocolate Orange in my stocking and lots of nuts. These days I wait around till 9 or 10 when my daughter finally gets up ( I have been up since 5 AM I am sure of it!!!!) and we have a huge breakfast of yet again traditional dishes like Cranberry Champagne Mimosas, Croissant Blueberry Bake, Canadian peameal back bacon, "tattie scones", scrambled eggs and roesti....yes it is a huge breakfast!!! We take it in stages and open a few gifts from family and friends and then eat some more and are done by noon. We developed this tradition because we have always lived some distance from our families and therefore spend Christmas Day at home together in a cozy unit. What are your family traditions??

Today is St. Nicholas Day... December 6th. It is early in the Advent season and is a feast that has been popular for centuries in Christian countries, especially in Northern Europe. In our over-commercialized society, this holiday gives us a good "teaching moment" to remind children that Santa Claus, is, in fact, Saint Nicholas, a fourth century bishop of the city of Myra in what is now Turkey. Myra used to be part of Greece...no wonder St. Nicolas is my favourite Saint!! We don't celebrate St. Nicholas Day in our family but for all of those who do..Happy St. Nicholas Day!!

Saint Nicholas was renowned for his great kindness and his generosity to those in distress. Among the kind and miraculous acts attributed to him are saving three young girls from prostitution by secretly providing them with dowries, raising three murdered boys from the dead, and saving sailors caught in stormy seas. For these reasons, he is considered the patron saint of children, unmarried girls, and sailors, among others.

Traditional celebrations of St. Nicholas Day in Northern Europe included gifts left in children's shoes (the origin of Christmas stockings). Good children received treats - candies, cookies, apples and nuts, while naughty children received lumps of coal. Sometimes coins were left in the shoes, reminiscent of the the life-saving dowries the saint provided. Today.. especially in families of German descent... children still put a shoe outside their bedroom doors on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, and expect to find candy and coins or small gifts in their shoes on December 6th.
I usually make these buttertart squares over the holiday season, but I am cutting back on all sweets this year. We always have an overabundance. Butter tarts are synonymous of Canadian cuisine and along with Nanaimo Bars always have a place on our holiday treat tray!!

**Butter Tart Squares**

1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
½ cup butter


2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
1 cup raisins
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

In bowl, combine flour with sugar; with pastry blender, cut in butter until crumbly. Press into 9-inch square cake pan; bake in 350 F oven for 15 minutes.

Topping: In bowl, mix together butter and eggs; blend in sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Stir in raisins and pecans; pour over base. Bake in 350 F oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Let cool on rack before cutting into small squares.

Makes 16 squares

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. I love hearing about other's holiday traditions. My husband and I have been talking a lot lately about the kinds of traditions we want to start together - especially for when we have children.

    These tart squares sound amazing. I wish I could say I was cutting down on sweets this year, but then again, I did just make cookies last night...

  2. Val, I see Nanaimo bars in the photo...I want Nanaimo bars!

  3. These sound really good!

    Growing up we would put a pair of shoes outside our bedroom door and my mom would put some coins and hershey kisses in them. My husband's mom buys everyone a small gift, usually a Christmas ornament for St. Nicholas Day.

    Thanks for the information on the holiday, I never knew it was pretty much a German thing. But that makes sense.

  4. 18 days? Really?? Whew. I enjoyed reading about your holiday traditions. Looking forward to some of those recipes!

  5. Wonderful post and nice traditions. Happy Holidays to you and your family Valli :)

  6. Happy St. Nicholas day to you too. But! Don't say the number of days to Christmas etc. don't say it :). It just makes me nervous about the number of things I have to get done before that time of the month (lol)

  7. I'm with Peter, I'm interested in the Nanaimo bars. I've never made them, but they intrigue me.

    I love sledding, but I've never had the chance to ski. It must be amazing.

  8. Dear Valli So beautiful post!"!!! I love traditions too!!!! but I love how you talk about them..Beautiful Picture!!! Gloria

  9. Val, lovely post yesterday I decorate my Christmas tree. In my family is a tradition, decorate the tree on St Nicholas day. But here in Argentina is in December 8th ( Virgin Marie's Day)
    I love ,love your tart square ,looks so yummy

  10. Dear Valli,
    Wonderful post - I loved reading about your family traditions and how it evolves with the next generation. Can I visit you over the Christmas period?? ;-) i didn't grow up with any Christmas tradition because we don't actually celebrate it, but now that I am with my Aussie partner and his family celebrates it, I am really getting into it with full force :-)

  11. p/s - RE: you comment on my blog about the DB challenge. Drop me an e-mail at sharifanoraini(at)yahoo(dot)com if you need any moral support :-)

  12. Very nice story and I think all over the world Christians celebrate the same way, Christmas tree, preparing traditional cakes and sweets, children waiting for Santa and his presents etc. Very nice recipes too!!

  13. Enjoy every moment Deborah!
    Nanaimo Bars are coming just for you Peter & Emeline!
    Only 16 days now Aimee & Cynthia!!
    Thank you for visiting Mary & Maryann!
    Thank you so much Gloria & Sylvia!
    I always enjoy your comments!

    Enjoy Christmas & thanks for the moral support Nora!!!! Much appreciated!!!
    I think children and "children at heart" enjoy Christmas all over the world Ivy!!

  14. Look at all of the goodies. My grandmother used to make butter tarts for the holiday season and they are one of my favorite treats. I will have to try making them.


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