Monday, December 5, 2016

Winter Traditions and Holidays Part 6 - St Nicholas and Sinterklaas

Icon c 1500 St Nicholas.JPGSaint Nicholas (December 6)

  • A historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra, (modern-day Demre, Turkey).
  • In his most famous exploit, Nicholas aided a poor man who had three daughters, but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment, would have to become prostitutes. Even if they did not, unmarried maidens in those days would have been assumed as being a prostitute. Hearing of the girls' plight, Nicholas decided to help them, but being too modest to help the family in public (or to save them the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to the house under the cover of night and threw three purses filled with gold coins through the window opening into the house.
  • Nicholas had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, a practice celebrated on his feast day, 6 December. Nicholas thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas,


  • Is celebrated annually with the giving of gifts on 5 December, the night before Saint Nicholas Day in the Northern Netherlands and on the morning of 6 December, Saint Nicholas Day
  • Before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the fireplace chimney with a carrot or some hay in it and a bowl of water nearby "for Sinterklaas' horse", and sing a Sinterklaas song.
  • The next day they find some candy or a small present in their shoes. Typical Sinterklaas treats traditionally include hot chocolate, mandarin oranges, pepernoten, speculaas (sometimes filled with almond paste), letter-shaped pastry filled with almond paste or a chocolate letter), chocolate coins and marzipan figures.
  • Parallels have been drawn between the legend of Sinterklaas and the figure of Odin, (worshipped in Northern and Western Europe prior to Christianization).

  • some elements of the Sinterklaas celebration are unrelated to Christianity, there are theories regarding the pagan origins of various customs of the holiday stemming from areas where the Germanic peoples were Christianized and retained elements of their indigenous traditions
          • Sinterklaas rides the rooftops on his white horse which has various names; Odin rides the sky with his eight leggged grey horse Sleipnir.
          • Sinterklaas gives chocolate letters to children, like Odin gave the rune letters to man.
          • Sinterklaas carries a staff and has mischievous helpers, who listen at chimneys to find out whether children are bad or good and report to Sinterklaas; Odin has a spear and his black ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who report what happens in the world to Odin.
  • Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. It is often claimed that during the American War of Independence, the inhabitants of New York City, a former Dutch colonial town (New Amsterdam), reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, as Saint Nicholas was a symbol of the city's non-English past.

No comments:

Post a Comment