Thursday, December 11, 2008

sinterklaas, kris kringle, st. nicholas, santa...

he's got lots of names, but did you ever wonder how he came to be?  nicholas of myra was a real person.  he was raised as a believer in Christ near the mediterranean sea in the 4th century.  he was orphaned and left his parents' fortune.  he grew up to become a priest and eventually the bishop of modern day turkey.  he was a "man of the cloth" by day and an anonymous gift giver by night.  nicholas helped poor children and dropped dowries down chimney's of penniless maidens which often landed in their shoes or "stockings" drying by the fire.  

during the ninth century - five hundred years after the events that gave birth to the legend of Nicholas of Myra - Saint Methodius of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) writes a life story of Nicholas, based on the many tales that had been passed down for centuries throughout Christendom. Nicholas' popularity grows immensely during this time and is soon canonized an official saint by The Christian Church.

as western europeans begin to immigrate to america, dutch settlers breath new life into the age-old legend, bringing their tales of Sinterklaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas) to the New World. In the settlement of New Amsterdam, the Dutch lore attains such influence that even after the English gain control of the settlement, renaming it New York, Saint Nicholas continues to be referred to by many New Yorkers as Sinterklaas and the eventual English pronunciation, Santa Claus.

as the years went on writers, poets, and store owners began to evolve sinterklaas into less of an "old world" character and gave him more "new world" whimsy, making him jolly, fat, and once the night before christmas was written  he became known to reside at the north pole with his wife and elves.  

that may have seemed long, but i actually left a lot out.  the point is we want to celebrate the undercover generosity that st. nicholas practiced so long ago.  his feast day is december 6th so on that day we travel to the homes of family and friends and as stealthily as possible we leave gifts and favors on the doorsteps of friends and family.  we return home for an evening of exchanging presents, opening small gifts in our wooden shoes, and of course, eating lots of treats.  


lani said...

what a fun tradition! interesting story - thank you for sharing it!

Heather said...

Yay! And thanks for telling the story...I hadn't really ever heard it before