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Traditions2015

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8 M I N E R A L K I N G P U B L I S H I N G , I N C . F S G N E W S . C O M Mr. Claus getting to know Text by she yanne romero { } e's roughly 463 years old, his favorite color is red and he has a wicked sweet tooth. But what else do we know about this jolly ole' elf? Was he born in the North Pole? Why the red suit? And more importantly: how do those reindeer fly? Although the questions that surround St. Nick may never be fully answered, historians have been able to provide curious details on the history of Kris Kringle. e first mentions of a Santa figure are found in medieval Netherlands folklore. Each year on December 5 and 6, a bearded man dressed in a red robe would ride through town on horseback. Sinterklaas, as he was known, would appear with a large book in hand which listed the names of good little boys and girls. After his valiant ride there would be a great feast in his hon- or as well as gift giving. Like many traditions, Sin- terklaas has evolved over the centuries. And, thanks to colo- nialism, the story of Sinterklaas spread to Spain, England and then on to the New World where the images of a modern St. Nick began to take form. e first colonists, primar- ily Puritans and other Protestant reformers, did not bring the St. Nicholas tradition to the New World. However, it was the colonial Germans in Pennsylvania that kept the feast of St. Nicholas alive. In 1773, New York non-Dutch patriots formed the Sons of St. Nicholas, primarily as a non-British symbol to counter the English coun- terpart known as the St. George society. After the American Revolution, New York- ers remembered with pride their colony's nearly forgotten Dutch roots. John Pintard, the influ- ential patriot who founded the New York His- torical Society in 1804, promoted St. Nicholas as patron saint of both society and city. In January 1809, Washington Irving joined the society and on St. Nicholas Day that same year, he published the satirical fiction, "Knickerbocker's History of New York", with numerous references to a jolly St. Nicholas character. Irving's rendition was not the the saintly bishop, rather, he depicted an elfin Dutch aristocrat with a clay pipe. e 19th century was a time of cultural transition. New York writers wanted to domes- ticate the Christmas holiday. e concept of family life be- gan to shift, and the role of children was becoming more crucial to the family structure. Furthermore, childhood was coming to be seen as a stage of life in which greater protection, sheltering, training and educa- tion were needed. And so the wintery season slowly started to become tamed, turning toward shops and home. St. Nicholas also began to take on new at- tributes to fit the changing times. e jolly elf image received another big boost in 1823, f rom a poem destined to become im- mensely popular, "A Visit f rom St. Nicholas," or better known today as "e Night Before Christ- mas." Sinterklaas, as he was known, would appear with a large book in hand which listed the names of good little boys and girls. After his valiant ride there would be a great feast in his honor as well as gift giving.

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