It's the holiday season, and the first thing that comes to so many minds is presents, and who better to deliver these presents than Jolly Saint Nick himself. Chris Cringle, Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, etc. etc. But who is this roly poly elf that sneaks around the living room each year? Where did he come from? And -watch out kids- is he real!? In this article you'll see how Santa went from thin and worshiped to pudgy and present-giving.
The first Europeans brought with them to the new World Saint Nicholas, and Columbus even named a Haitian port for the saint in 1492. Even the city now known as Jacksonville, Florida, was once known as Saint Nicholas Ferry. However, during the sixteenth century, there was a protestant reformation which took a low liking to saints. Although everyone tried to get rid of Saint Nick-related activity and custom, only the English traditions of Christmas were permanently altered. Since so many common people still liked Saint Nick, ‘he’ continued to place nuts, apples and sweets in any shoes left on the hearth, windowsill, or beside a bed.
The colonists coming to America in the 1500's were mainly Puritans, and Protestant reformers who didn't bring Saint Nicholas with them. And although many think that the Dutch brought Saint Nicholas to New Amsterdam, scholors have little evidence of this. Germans in present-day Pennsylvania, however, held the feast of Saint Nicholas and several accounts tell that Saint Nick Himself visited the feast.
In 1773, another Saint Nick-based occurance happened with the forming of the Sons of Saint Nicholas by the patriots. This, however was not to honor the bishop, but to blow a raspberry to the English St. George society. After the American Revolution, New Yorkers thought about their proud Dutch roots. John Pintard promoted St. Nicholas as the patron saint of Society and City. St. Nicholas as mentioned in “The knickerbocker's History of New York" was an elfin Dutch burgher with a pipe. These imaginative thoughts are the source of many New Amsterdam St. Nick legends, such as that the first Ductch emigrant ship had St. Nick as a figurehead, that St. Nicholas day was observed in the colony, that the first church was dedicated to him, and that St. Nick comes down chimneys with heaping sacks of presents.
The NY historical society held its first St. Nick Anniversary dinner in 1810, on December 6. John Pintard commissioned Alexander Anderson to create an American image of St. Nick for the occasion. St. Nick was depicted as a gift-giver, with treats stuffed into stockings hanging at the fireplace. An accompanying poem read “Saint Nicholas, my dear good friend! To serve you ever was my end, If you will, now, me something give, I'll serve you ever while I live. " The elfin idea of Santa got a boost in 1823 when a poem was written: “A visit from Saint Nicholas". Later to be known as “The night before Christmas. "
"He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. . . . "
There are arguments between the writer being Clement Clark Moore, and Henry Livingston, who wrote humerous verse for children. Many artists continued the progression to Sancte Claus, or Santa Claus, which was very much unlike the Bishop Nicholas. A series of drawings in ‘Harper's Weekly', by Thomas Nast, based on descriptions of Washington Irving's work, further showed Santa with his furry garb and bag of toys. It was, however, Haddon Sundblom who solidified the Santa Image with thirty-five years of Coca-Cola commercials featuring Santa as the Rotund, Red-suited, Full-bellied, white-haired fellow we know today. Santa has become so familiar that he has spread around the world and could possibly threaten Europe's Saint Nicholas, who is still a Christian Bishop and Saint.
Hi. I'm coconut, or WS from http://www.cococomics.net . I often write articles such as this about things like alchemy, medusa, etc. I started my site in September 2003, and it has grown a lot. That's pretty much all I can think to say.