The Night of Saint Nicholas

December 6, 2021 at 9:28 pm (Christmas, Culture, Folklore, History, Personal essays) (, , , , , , , , , )

It was December 6th 2021.

December 6th was the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (what is now modern day Turkey).

He was known for his generous gifts to poor people.

He was also the Patron Saint of Children.

As such he was noted for giving gifts on the night of his Feast Day of Saint Nicholas when in Medieval Europe a person dressed up as the bishop Saint Nicholas would go around giving gifts to children in the respective village or town.

Later it became the saying that Saint Nicholas only gave presents to good children on his Feast Day.

And the figure of Krampus (a demon goat) was invented who was said to whip naughty children on the night before Saint Nicholas’ Day which was called Krampusnacht (December 5th).

And the really bad children (like Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci) it was said he put in a sack and carried down to Hell on that night.

In the centuries following the Reformation, the custom started developing in some towns and regions that it was Saint Nicholas who gave out gifts right at Christmas.

And eventually the idea developed that it was not the 4th Century bishop who gave out gifts on Christmas Eve but rather a very tall elf who wore a red costume and was white bearded and was called Santa Claus (the English equivalent of Sinterklaas which was the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas).

The more recent contemporary folklore mythology expanded to say that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole, had a magic sled pulled by seven magic reindeer (Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen) plus an eighth very shiney red nosed reindeer named Rudolph who guided the sled by the light of his nose and they delivered presents to all of the good children of the world all on one night.

However for a thousand years from 500 AD to 1500 AD, it was not the jolly old elf Santa Claus or the 4th Century bishop Saint Nicholas who brought gifts to children on Christmas Eve but rather Das Christkind (which literally translates to Christ Child).

Yes for much of Christianity’s long history, it was the Christ Child Himself who brought gifts to children on Christmas Eve.

Jesus would come down from Heaven and would resume the form He had when He was 5 or 6 years old and bring gifts to children that night.

The tradition was for children to do good deeds during the Season of Advent.

On the first day of Advent, a crib or creche was brought into the home.

Every time a child did a good deed, he or she would be allowed to put a piece of straw on the crib.

If there was enough straw on the crib, Das Christkind or the Christ Child would lay on the crib in the children’s home the night before Christmas.

And the Christ Child would give gifts to children on Christmas morning.

On the night of December 23rd, the crib or creche was placed behind a veil in the home.

If the child looked behind the veil before 7 PM on Christmas Eve, Das Christkind (the Christ Child) would not come on Christmas Eve.

At 7 PM on Christmas Eve, the father would part the veil.

And there in the crib would be placed a figure of the Christ Child.

And on Christmas morn there would be found gifts for the children.

But the Christ Child as the bringer of gifts on Christmas Eve would later be replaced by the 4th Century bishop Saint Nicholas of Myra (who originally brought gifts on his own feast day on December 6th) and later replaced by the jolly old elf Santa Claus (whose myth was inspired by Clement Moore’s 19th Century poem The Night Before Christmas and early and mid-20th Century Coca-Cola ads).

A long journey to take Christ out of Christmas.

Forgetting without Christ, there would be no Christmas.

-A historical essay
written by Christopher
Monday December 6th
2021.

6 Comments

  1. 北方榆 (Northern Elm) said,

    thank you very much for this essay, very interesting and informative. The coming Christmas will be more meaningful for me and my family. I will steal some of the lines from your text to entertain my family, one of them will be the names of the 8 reindeers : Dancer, Prancer, Vixen,…… Which I never knew before.

  2. Hyperion said,

    An excellent history of the Christmas Holidays. I never heard or read the origins of Saint Nicolas, nor did I know of the early practice of the Christ Child. I grew up with the Coca-Cola Christmas which was beautifully illustrated and of course I grew up in the golden age of Bourbon when bourbon and other spirits were major sponsors on television and magazines right next to the cigarette adds. Each embellished Christmas was a time to buy their products made in exquisite style just for the occasion. Christ and Christmas was never mentioned until the Sunday before Christmas when my father packed his family into the old Chevy Bel Aire and we heard about the birth of the Christ child. I then was transported home where I rampaged through my December National Geographic and drooled over the full page spreads of Coca-Cola Santa and bourbon and cigarettes and dreamed with the greatest passion when I would be old enough to drink and smoke. I cheated and started at age 8. It was easy and I really enjoyed being a drunk kid all smoked up with pilfered Camel cigarettes. The no filtered smokes were the best because they enhanced the palate of Old Crow and Jim Beam bourbon, but it was pure heaven to steal about three of grandpa’s Pall Mall cigarettes and a glass of Old Charter 90 proof bourbon and go out to the English Garden and wander around drunk talking to all the birds, lizards, and butterfly’s. Strange that Christ was never mentioned. Oh those glorious cold days when my mother would sniff the cigarettes and bourbon on my 3rd grader mischievous person and then tell me I was devil spawn and then tomato my naughty bootie. I loved it when my mother gave me such intense attention. As she smoked my tiny bottom she would tell me she was bringing me within an inch of death because she loved me. But, she never mentioned Mary and Joseph or mangers. When I learned of Yule it sounded cool and I slipped into paganism without a clue. I just liked smoking and drinking and setting fire to logs. By the time I was 36 I became sober and straight and responsible. Mainly because cigarette and bourbon ads were banned and Coca-Cola Santa had died an ignominious death replaced by Black Fridays and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer on repeat 24/7 starting in October. That’s my story and I sticking to it. Thank you for your story. Now in my twilight years I finally know the truth about Christmas. All the best -Jeffrey the Otter

    • Dracul Van Helsing said,

      Thank you, Daniel.

      Ah, childhood memories.

      You summed up your childhood in a cigarette and bourbon filled nutshell from smoking chimneys to smoking booties.

      Glad you finally heard the truth about Christmas, my friend.

      • Hyperion said,

        I am glad as well Chris. It just goes to show, you never get too old to learn something important.

      • Dracul Van Helsing said,

        Very true, Daniel.

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