|Hilda van Stockum's Kersti|
It includes his reading of a poem and highlights of the lives of writers or other historical figures whose birthdays are celebrated that day. It is usually well researched and for me it is the Fifth (and funniest) Gospel.
But today it takes note of St. Nicholas Day by describing it as a holiday "celebrated in Germany and other European countries, as well as many American cities with German roots."
No, sir. I cannot let that pass. My late mother, Hilda van Stockum, would not want me to less this slide by. She was a huge fan of the saint and wrote a whole book about St. Nicholas, Kersti and St. Nicholas. I grew up revering this saintly Greek bishop who came from what is now part of Turkey.
The implication that St. Nicholas was primarily a German-venerated saint is untrue. St. Nicholas did not come to the United States from Germany, even though there are today more German-Americans than Dutch-Americans in the USA.
St. Nicholas came via Holland. When Englishman Henry Hudson sailed over in 1609 to what is now New York City on the "Half Moon" he was in the employ of the the Dutch East Indies Company. He went back to Holland with news of the fertile river valley going north from the port that he called New Amsterdam. Within five years Dutch settlers had made a small city on the southern end of the island we call today Manhattan.
|Thomas Nast Drew This Iconic Picture of|
Sinterklaas Based on Moore's Poem.
The Dutch tradition includes two key elements:
- On St. Nicholas Eve (December 5), children sing songs about the arrival of the saint and partake of special St. Nicholas treats, including the Speculaas almond-ginger cookies. At St. Nicholas parties the saint arrives with his bishop's miter and crozier, and presents are distributed.
- Whether or not there is a party on St. Nicholas Eve, children leave out a shoe in front of the fireplace and put carrots in them for St. Nick's white horse. On the morning of December 6, St. Nicholas is supposed to have arrived during the night on the rooftop with presents for good children. The carrots are gone and the good children get sweets and toys, whereas the bad children get just a lump of coal from the fireplace as the saint goes back up the chimney..
Children leave out a shoe in the German tradition, but the appearance of St. Nicholas is rare and the December 6 feast day is nothing like as important as in Holland, where traditionally has been more important than Christmas.