Just a little reminder to my Northern Tradition folks out there: Oski’s Day is right around the corner. Ok, so we repurposed St. Nicholas Day, but I’m ok with that. We have little record of all the many small feast days that assuredly made up the journey to Yule, those ember days, a liminal time that grows weirder and more liminal with each passing day; I hardly think the Gods will fault us for finding new ways to honor Them, or for adapting certain holy days that have rooted into custom in the lands of some of our ancestors. Oski’s day is one of those, and it’s celebrated on December 6.
I first started celebrating this nearly twenty years ago. My adopted mom was Swiss and she had grown up with St. Nicholas Day. She was also a devout Heathen and long before she adopted me, had been honoring Odin in place of good old St. Nick. on this day (tomato, tomahto as we all know Odinic lore sort of informed the whole idea of Santa Claus ha ha). In some areas, she told me, children would leave shoes out the night before and they’d be filled with candy and small toys. In Switzerland, small gifts were given and there were certain tastes and smells that defined the holiday: leckerli cookies (sort of like gingerbread), dates, nuts, tangerines, beeswax candles. This is one of the small holidays of the Yule time that we celebrate in my home now and all of us are really excited that it’s nearly here (seriously, it’s been killing us not to exchange gifts sooner!).
Now, Oski is one of Odin’s heiti or epithets. It means “God of Wishes” or “Wish Giver.” (There is a medieval Christian theologian Meister Eckhart who once said that “God is a thousand thousand times more ready to give than we are to receive.” I have found this true on so many levels and sometimes that is a thing that admittedly inspires wariness, but I don’t think it should here. It is something to be celebrated, and Oski is a particularly generous aspect if you will, of Odin). So, hail Oski, the gift-giver and for those of you celebrating Oski’s Day this Sunday, may your rituals go well and may your souls be nourished. Happy Oski’s day, in advance.
Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day. In parts of Germany and Switzerland, children would receive small gifts, and certain sweet foods would be shared. There are smells and tastes that I associate with this day alone – something I was reminded of this morning at work when a coworker walked in with gifts of coquito for her advisor. That too is something typically made only for Christmas and she said the smell of the cinnamon when making the drink conjures the holiday spirit like nothing else. I get that. St. Nicholas day is like that for me.
My mom always called it Oski’s Day and keeping the same custom would honor Odin as the Gift-Giver (Oski) on this day. She’d make leckerli (sort of a Swiss gingerbread), we’d have dates, candied walnuts, and mandarin oranges and we’d burn beeswax candles in offering to the God. That combination of scents brings me back powerfully to all the winter holidays we shared, because while Dec. 20 is traditionally the start of Yule, for us it started on the 6thwith this small exchange of gifts.
For those wanting a taste of this holiday, here is a traditional recipe for Basler Leckerli.
Odin is a God of so many things, awesome in the oldest sense of the word, terrible but He is also the winter king Who fills our homes with abundance, Who comes sharing wealth, warmth, and joy. He bestows sweetness. In the midst of the dark and the cold, He is fire burning.
(image by Righon)