Is it Just a Phishy Story?

Now that Christmas will be here before we know it, how many of you are looking forward to your kids making out the Christmas list? Are you ready to send the list to the elves in the North Pole? So, just how much of the St. Nicholas story is really true? Here's some information and you can decide for yourself. In the meantime you'll also get a great gift idea, so read on.

How did the kindly Christian saint, good Bishop Nicholas, become a roly-poly red-suited American symbol for merry holiday festivity and commercial activity? The first Europeans to arrive in the New World brought St. Nicholas. However, St. Nicholas had a difficult time during the 16th century Protestant Reformation which took a dim view of saints. Even though both reformers and counter-reformers tried to stamp out St. Nicholas-related customs, they had very little long-term success; only in England were the religious folk traditions of Christmas permanently altered.

Because the common people so loved St. Nicholas, he survived on the European continent as people continued to place nuts, apples, and sweets in shoes left beside beds, on windowsills, or before the hearth. Now, I don't know about you, but who wants to eat out of someones dirty shoe?

After the American Revolution, New Yorkers remembered with pride the colony's nearly-forgotten Dutch roots. John Pintard, influential patriot and antiquarian, who founded the New York Historical Society in 1804, promoted St. Nicholas as patron saint of both society and city. The New York Historical Society held its first St. Nicholas anniversary dinner on December 6, 1810.

John Pintard commissioned artist Alexander Anderson to create the first American image of Nicholas for the occasion. Nicholas was shown in a gift-giving role with children's treats in stockings hanging at a fireplace.

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