By: Brandon Sweet
Christmas, a time of joy, happiness, and coming together. A holiday that is celebrated in many different ways all over the world. But, how did we stumble upon such a holiday? In order for us to know, we would have to go back in time. According to the History Channel, around 280 A.D. in Patara, or what is now our modern day Turkey, is where the legend is said to have come into the light. A man named St. Nicholas had become an icon, a symbol, and an ideal for us to be inspired by. It is in his time that Saint Nicholas was well known for his virtue and kindness towards the people of the different places to which he had traveled. Wherever he went, it is said that he spent his inheritance to help the sick and the poor. As the years passed on so did he, leaving behind what would give people hope.
He is remembered as “the protector of children and sailors,” according to the History Channel. They celebrated what he had done for them by holding a feast on the sixth of December, which is the anniversary of the day he had passed on. The years that had gone by changed as did the way they celebrated St. Nicholas. The day of his death became a lucky day to make large purchases or to hold ceremonies, such as weddings.
By the time of the great Renaissance, St. Nicholas was still able to be thought of as the greatest saint in all of Europe. Their belief in continuing with his ideals was so strong that it made its way through the time of Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged. Holland stuck with this in mind especially well during this time period.
The Dutch had brought this tradition to the American culture in the late 18th century. In December of 1773, and then again in 1774, a New York newspaper had reported that local Dutch families were gathering in an annual celebration of St. Nicholas’ death.
This gathering grew to be a very popular tradition and caught on to others in surrounding areas. Eventually, as the time came, they started to refer to St. Nicholas in his Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas. In the Dutch form, it would be Sint Nikolaas. Then, in 1804, a man by the name of John Pintard, who had been a member of the New York Historical Society, gave out wood cuttings of St. Nicholas at an annual meeting in the local museum. The image of him is one that was very close to what is now an iconic pictorial of jolly old Saint Nick.
This image was altered by Clement Clarke Moore, in 1822, when he wrote a book entitled An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas for his three daughters. He was skeptical to have it published due to the basic idea since that he was a minister writing about a supernatural being flying in a sleigh going down children’s chimneys delivering presents. As the History Channel states, “This story inspired a journalist by the name of Thomas Nast, in 1881, drew on Moore’s poem in Harper’s Weekly of a rotund, cheerful man with a fully grown, white beard, holding a sack of toys, and was dressed in a red suit with a white fur trim, a North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife Mrs. Clause. Becoming what we today visualize as the embodiment of old Saint Nick.”
The Squire would like to give credit to The History Channel for the immense amount information provided for this story. If you’d like to learn more about the history of Santa or other holiday traditions, more details can be found at