Have you ever seen a family puttting wooden shoes out in December as a Christmas decoration? This old European custom still has a large following all over the world! But many people don’t have wooden shoes to put out, in hopes of St. Nicholas leaving them treats! What to do? Make your own wooden shoes!
Or should I say, BAKE your own wooden shoes?
First some background on the wooden shoe tradition: In sixteenth century Holland, children placed their wooden shoes by their Fireplace or outside of their door the night of St. Nicholas’s arrival (the evening of December 5th).
The shoes were filled with straw or carrots, a meal for the saint’s gift laden horse. In return for the kind gesture, St. Nicholas (or Sinterklaas as they would call him) would insert a few small treats into each wee clog!
In the United States, the shoe tradition was eventually replaced with the stocking, hung by the chimney! But many American families with roots in countries like Holland, and Germany keep the shoe tradition alive by putting their kids shoes outside their bedroom door, under their Christmas tree or outside the front door!
My husband who spent some of his childhood in Holland, has a lovely pair of wooden shoes (his grandfather’s) that we put out out every December 5th with treats for Sinterklaas’s horse. And by December 6th – they have treats in them for our daughter!
If you don’t have wooden shoes, here are a few tips for making some!
Baking “Wooden Shoes”:
- You can use your favorite bread recipe, buy a loaf from your local grocer, or buy a loaf of “ready to be baked” bread. I went with ready to be baked bread, because I wanted a specific length to mimic the shoe. And, I wanted to be able to bake it with an egg wash for a golden color.
- This is the pre-made loaves I used http://amzn.to/2gJYfFh (affiliate link)
- If like my bread, yours seems too light to be wood – mix an egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of water and paint over the loaf before baking. This egg wash makes the loaf shiny and golden brown!
- Once your bread is baked and the right color, you will want to crave out the back to resemble a shoe. My advice is to do this while your bread is still quite warm. Cooled bread is much for likely to crack while you carve.
- Use a dish towel to steady the bread while you cut, that way your fingers wont get too hot!
- After cutting, let your shoe loaf cool totally before decorating. You can use food markers, or food decorating gel. Gel will melt if your shoes are warm – so again, cool first.
- Now – put out those “shoes” December 5th night – and see if you wake up to a few small December 6th surprises from Santa!
Have a wonderful time baking your wooden shoes, and celebrating the feast of Saint Nicholas!