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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Legend of St. Nick

The original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, was born in the ancient Southeastern Turkish town of Lycia early in the forth century. His generosity was legendary and he was particularly fond of children which led to his becoming the patron saint of children.

During the middle ages and well beyond, he was referred to by many names, none of them Santa Claus. Children today would not recognize the St. Nick who brought gifts to European children all those centuries ago. Except for a billowy white beard, he bore no resemblance to Santa. He wore red and white bishop’s robes and arrived on donkey opposed to fleet-footed reindeer.  And he arrived not late on Christmas Eve to leave gifts but on his Christian feast day of December 6th. Gifts he left at the hearth were fruit, nuts, hard candy, clay and wooden figurines.

During the sixteenth century, St. Nicholas was banished by most European countries, replaced by more secular figures who were not considered center stage at that point in history.

The Dutch kept the tradition of St. Nicholas alive. As the protector of sailors, he graced the prow of the first Dutch ship to arrive in America. The first church in New York City was named after St. Nicholas.

The Dutch brought two items with them to the new world that were quickly Americanized. In Sixteenth Century Holland, children would leave wooden shoes filled with straw before the hearth the night of St. Nicholas’s arrival. The straw was a meal for the gift-laden donkey. In return, the saint would insert a small gift in the clog. In America the wooden shoe was replaced by a stocking hung at the chimney.

The Dutch spelled St. Nicholas ‘Sint Nikolass’ which in the new world became ‘Sinterklass’ and eventually Santa Claus.

Much of modern-day lore, including a reindeer-drawn sleigh originated in America, and it was here that he put on weight. The rosy cheeks and roly-poly Santa are credited to the influential nineteenth century cartoonist Thomas Nast. From 1863 until 1886 Nast created a series Of Christmas drawings for Harpers Weekly. These drawings exhibited a gradual evolution from the pudgy elf-like creature to the roly poly bearded life-size bell ringing Santa recognized on street corners today.

Sharon Donovan
Romantic Suspense with a Twist of Faith

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Sharon Donovan said...

Happy St. Nick's Day!

P.L. Parker said...

Wonderful post - I love all the historical facts! And Happy St. Nick's Day to you!

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks Patsy!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Well, God bless Holland. I did not know that the Dutch brought Saint Nick to America or that he was the patron saint of sailors. Very interesting blog, Sharon. all the best to you.

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks, Sarah, I love legends. Merry Christmas to you!

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Sharon dear friend -
what a fascinating post. I didn't Know St Nick was the Patron Saint of Sailors either, and so many other interesting pieces of information.

Another fascinating and informative article, thanks for sharing.

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks Lyn, dear friend. Like you, legends fascinate me endlessly. I must admit to not knowing that St. Nick was patron of sailors either. Wink

Mary Ricksen said...

I do believe, I do, I do, I do, after all there is May 2012!!!!
Merry Christmas my friend!!

Sharon Donovan said...

Merry Christmas to you, Mary, sweet girl.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Good (and fun!) information, Sharon. Sarah, my sentiments exactly (Maybe I should watch Mamma Mia again!).

I was also fascinated by Paisley Kirkpatrick's blog at Sweethearts of the West that Clement Moore wasn't the author of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, a guy named Livingston was.