Do you ever reminisce about the thrills and excitement Santa Claus brought when you were a child? Did you ever imagine hearing sleigh bells? Did you ever think you spotted Rudolph’s nose among the stars? Did you ever want to visit the North Pole? Dose the image of Santa still live today?
The thrill of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. History suggests that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. St. Nickolas was admired by all for his kindness and righteousness. He became the theme of many legends. Once again, history suggests that St. Nicholas gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor, sick, and wounded. A well known story of St. Nicholas is the one that tells about how he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father. St. Nicholas provided the sisters money so they could be married. Back then it was called a dowry to propose marriage. Many years passed and Nicholas’ image grew to be known as the protector of children and sailors. Another claim in history is, there is a feast day held in St. Nicholas’ honor. This day falls on the day of his death, December 6. December 6th remained a tradition and is considered a lucky day to make purchases or to get married. According to the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the devotion of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.
So, when did St. Nicholas make his appearance into America? The legend made its way inroads toward the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and once again in 1774, a New York newspaper gathered news and reported that a group of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of Nicholas’ death. Since everyone in America is not Dutch, the name Santa Claus evolved. This name comes from the Dutch pronunciation Sinter Klass. In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. In the background of the engravings there were images of the ever famous stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the sponsor saint of New York. As his gibbosity grew, the Dutch known Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a ‘rascal’ with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a ‘huge pare of Flemish trunk hose.’
So, if you backtrack into our history books, Santa Claus doesn’t really live at the North Pole, doesn’t drive a sleigh with reindeer, and doesn’t produce sleigh bells…..Santa was invented in New York from the stories that the Dutch brought with them. And the stories just grew and grew and grew……
No matter what the stories and history suggest, I still leave milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.
If you’re looking for the perfect Santa cookie that will guarantee your house be visited first, I have just the recipe…..
- ½ c. butter, soft
- ½ c. sugar
- ⅓ c. light brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1½ c. bread flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
- ¼ tsp. salt
- For sugar mixture
- 2 TBS sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Mix flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in a bowl. Mix into wet ingredients until smooth. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar mix. Bake for 14-16 minutes (mine took exactly 14) or until cookie turns slightly golden.