According to history.com*, there was a highly regarded monk named Nicholas who
lived in Patara, now modern-day Turkey, in 280 A.D. He was known for his kindness
and generosity, giving away his wealth to those in need. His legendary status grew
and he became known as the protector of children. By the Renaissance he was
known as Saint Nicholas and was immensely popular throughout Europe despite the
veneration of saints being highly discouraged after the Protestant Reformation
Skip ahead to the end of the 18th century, when St. Nicholas caught on in America
thanks to a group of Dutch immigrants who had gathered to honor the anniversary
of his death. The Dutch called him Sinter Klaas, which evolved to “Santa Claus” via
the English translation.
John Pintard gave handmade woodcuts of St. Nicholas to his society members at a
meeting in 1804. To this day he is credited with providing the “familiar images of
Santa, including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over the fireplace.” Holiday
gift-giving was rejuvenated in the early 19th century and Mr. Pintard’s version of
Santa made its way into mainstream advertising. The Salvation Army, looking to
raise money to pay for the free meals they provided, gave this image momentum by
dressing up their volunteers in the red Santa suits we see today.
It’s fascinating to read about how the figure of St. Nicholas has evolved through the
centuries. From monk to a jolly saint in a red suit, his legend brings joy to many
around the globe each Christmas. Personally, we like to think of him working away
in his workshop, exploring innovative designs, tinkering with parts and pieces as he
crafts toys and trinkets, collaborating with his team of elves, critiquing inventions,
creating presents by hand, living the life of making and giving… perhaps inspiring
others to do the same. Magical.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season from all of us here at OBP.
And then some,
Your friends @OBP
*To learn more about the history of St. Nick, click here.