The Witch and the Baker’s Dozen
This is an interesting bit of folklore that I felt needed a share. The original story of the Baker’s Dozen was originally written in 1836 by James Kirke Paulding called the Book of St. Nicholas.
To summarize, what is now called Manhattan in New York was once called New Amsterdam. This was an early Dutch American settlement and there was a baker named Boss Boomptie. Boss Boomptie was a baker that took great pride in his work and tried his best to provide for his family in hard times. He baked cookies, breads, and any baked good you could imagine and sold these goods to the nearby villagers. He was not a generous man and skimped wherever he could.
On one New Year’s night, Boss was drinking with his family and friends in his bakery and heard a knock at the door. Always wanting to make an extra dime, he answered the door and a haggard old woman with a crooked nose, leaning on a cane was on the other side.
Based on her appearance he presumed she was a witch. She asked him for a dozen St. Nicholas cookies. He promptly gave her 12, and the woman scolded him and said that other bakers always gave an extra cookie to a dozen, making it 13. Boss scoffed, refused, took her money and sent her away. The next day, Boss’ luck changed, his workers started stealing from him, his bread stopped rising, or rose too much. He knew he had been cursed. Strangely enough, the old woman appeared at his door again and asked for a dozen cookies. Boss knew he was cursed and took his anger out on the witch, he cursed at her and sent her on her way. His luck, ironically got worse. Nothing he baked was edible and he lost all customers. His business was ruined.
Boss started to pray and he prayed to St. Nicholas, the saint of merchants, and asked for the witch’s evil curse to be lifted. After praying, he baked another batch of St. Nicholas’ cookies and they turned out perfectly. He looked out the window and saw St. Nicholas standing in the moonlight. St. Nicholas reminded the baker to always give to those in need. Ironically, shortly thereafter the witch came that night.
She once again asked for a dozen cookies, which he gladly gave her 13 cookies and she claimed to him the curse was lifted. From that point on, Boss always sold his dozen cookies to include that extra thirteenth cookie. This is the original tale of the bakers dozen. Some believe St. Nicholas taught Boss a lesson, and others believe that the witch was the teacher of this lesson.
Yes, as you guessed it, St. Nicholas is what we now know of as Santa Claus. Many tales of witches always come with a lesson, and rarely get recognition. Witches always appear in stories and folklore with the end result being an important lesson learned.
So, did St. Nicholas or the witch teach the baker this lesson?
Something to ponder.