Carp, cooked in dough, called " ribnik", is traditionally served in Bulgaria. Why carp? Becasue carp has been seen as the servant of St Nicholas.
To make ribnik, the carp is scaled first, then the fins cut off and it's cleaned. A small bone at the top of the carp's head, called the "bitter bone" or "pearl button", must be removed or the fish will acquire a bitter taste when cooked. (You don't throw the fish bones in the garbage; you have to burn them or bury them or return them to water, so that you will have a good harvest next year.) The fish is then washed, dried, brushed with lemon juice and let stand an hour, then wrapped in yeast-risen dough, and baked. You then take the ribnik to church to get it blessed.
The ribnik is served with cabbage or grape leaves stuffed with vegetables, boiled bulgar wheat, peppers, beans and breads.
St Nicholas, often referred to as Sinterklaas, a forerunner to our modern Santa Claus is mostly depicted as a protector and supporter of children and the needy as he was most well known for his kindness and generosity to others. There are many many stories of the kindness and goodness displayed by Bishop Nicholas including miracles.One story which firmly establishes Nicholas as a friend to sailors is this one retold on the St Nicholas Center website
A ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, caught by a storm, became grounded. The sailors were unable to manoeuvre it back into deeper water. Accounts of Bishop Nicholas' help to distressed sailors had already spread far and wide. The sailors called on Nicholas for aid, even though they were distant from him, as they believed they might be saved by his prayer and intervention.
Nicholas actually appeared on the ship and gave the sailors a helping hand. Together they retied and strengthened the ropes holding the masts and worked with poles to pry the ship away from the threatening rocks into deeper water. As soon as the boat was freed and able to again set sail, the image of Nicholas vanished.
The ship took refuge in a calm harbour and the sailors went looking for a church where they could thank God for their rescue. It so happened that they had taken shelter in Myra and made their way to the cathedral church. Seeing a number of priests, they were suddenly startled to see Bishop Nicholas himself, whom they recognized from the image they had seen on shipboard, giving them assistance. They asked Nicholas how he had heard them and been able to come to their rescue. Nicholas replied that a life devoted to God allows a person to be so clear-sighted as to be able to actually see others in danger and hear their calls for help.... It is not wonder a fish dish is the special food is part of the pre-Christmas celebrations today.
And a special happy birthday to our granddaughter today on St Nicholas' Day.