Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus
DID YOU KNOW … it is very likely that Santa will come from the Netherlands.
Saint Nicholas was born in 270 in Pataras (Turkey). He died as bishop Nicholas of Myra on December 6, 342 in Myra and was later sanctified for his many good deeds. Centuries later, after the invasion of the Muslims in the area, the remains of the saint were stolen in 1087 and taken to Bari. Already before the year 1000 he was one of the most universally venerated saints in the Eastern and Western Church, a kind of reflection of the Christ figure. In the Middle Ages, his death day evolved into the children’s party as we know it today. It started with choosing a figure as a child bishop. This gave poor children food and gifts, including shoes, until 28 December. Slowly but surely, peddling children grew into a common use. For a long time there was great resistance to this use, especially because of the Roman Catholic elements.
When the first Dutch emigrated to America, they founded the Nieuw Amsterdam branch in 1611. This establishment was sold for an apple and an egg less than forty years later and is now known throughout the world as the city of New York. The Dutch brought Saint Nicholas as tradition (our Sinterklaas ) and so the Americans have adopted him. He even became the patron saint of New York.
Saint Nicholas was first mentioned by the media in 1773 as St. A Claus (St. Er Klaas). Sinterklaas was meanwhile a fat, smoking Dutchman who was more like an Elf and walked through the streets of New Amsterdam according to the media. Slowly the original story changed, by adding elements from all sorts of cultures (reindeer, sleigh and elves) especially by the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (A visit by Saint Nicholas), which was published in 1823, established his reputation in the United States. In this poem many modern customs and attributes of the Santa Claus come forward, such as the reindeer and sleigh, his entrance into the house through the chimney and a bag with gifts.
The Coca-Cola company commissioned The Swedish artist Haddon Sundblom in 1931 to draw a pleasantly fat, beard, in the company colors red and white … and that is what he still looks like today. Thanks to Coca Cola, Santa Claus could spread, but he got his classic form already in the middle of the nineteenth century. then Santa was portrayed in different clothing styles. From a fully dressed in fur elf to a gigantic red giant and everything in between. The Santa of the coca cola became the best known. The advertising campaign passed the world and the image of a friendly, friendly Santa became our image of Santa Claus.
That is also the time in which the Dutch Sinterklaas was sketched by Jan Schenkman: a bishop who does not arrive from Myra or Bari but from Spain, accompanied by a Moorish-clad servant who became as black as smoke in chimneys.
Traditionally, Sinterklaas songs do not say that Sinterklaas himself comes from Spain, but that he travels to Spain to get treats. The oldest known example in which Sinterklaas and Spain are mentioned together is a printed pamphlet. Sinterklaas travels to Amsterdam and then continues to Spain to pick up oranges. Apparently the temperature pleased him because we are still in the Netherlands that he comes from Spain.
In many other countries in Europe the children’s feast of Saint Nicholas is also celebrated, but the interpretation of the party varies by country and region. The two main differences are the way Sinterklaas arrives and the appearance of his servant. Sinterklaas probably had no helper in the Netherlands until the 19th century. In 1850, Schenkman introduced a helper for the first time in St. Nicholas and his servant. The servant had no name in his book, it was a colored young man who got the name “Zwarte Piet” in 1895.
After the Second World War Canadian soldiers in the Netherlands organized a Sinterklaas celebration with a mass of Zwarte Pieten. Since then, Sinterklaas has been accompanied by many Petes, often with their own task, under the direction of a Head. While Sinterklaas has always remained stately, the Petes often behave like agile jokers. In the Netherlands, Piet has been in disrepute since 2013 after more and more objections to the traditional black appearance of Zwarte Piet came. These objections were motivated by the associations with the history of slavery.
“Until recently, New York had a Greek Orthodox church dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra, near the Twin Towers and destroyed on September 11, 2001.”
During the Second World War, the Americans, as their tradition, brought Santa back to Europe, so we now have two Claus in Europe!