St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas

The legend of Santa Claus, the image of Father Christmas, and the basis for most legendary Christmas gift bringers of old world Europe all has their genesis in the real-world figure of Saint Nicholas. His story as a benevolent religious figure and giver of gifts has led to a centuries old reputation that has influenced seasonal charity for generations. He was born of a wealthy family in the village of Patara, located now in modern-day Turkey. Legend recalls young Nicholas growing up in a privileged situation, his parents being quite wealthy Christians. But their lives were taken as an epidemicRead more

A Different Kind of History of Christmas Trees

A Different Kind of History of Christmas Trees

Pick a history resource out there and you will find a history of Christmas trees that dates back to pagan traditions of the Winter Solstice. The History Channel says Christmas trees took root from ancient use of evergreens as an end-of-year ritual of hope and eternal life. Wikipedia, to its credit, admits that is purely a “speculative theory”. But even Christian history resources cite pagan roots for the modern Christmas tree. Like most history of Christmas all that is too lazy and too easy. Christmas trees are actually a complex form of celebration. And they are much, much older thanRead more

Jimmy Stewart’s Other Christmas Movie

Jimmy Stewart’s Other Christmas Movie

In a 1980 production of a low budget and not-so widely distributed film directed by Academy Award winning director Keith Merrill, Jimmy Stewart gives the holiday performance of a lifetime. Unlike that other Christmas movie (It’s a Wonderful Life) starring Stewart nearly forty years before this one features neither the predictable sub-plots of good versus evil or the triumph over Christmas disasters. Stewart plays Willie Krueger, a lonely old man enduring a Christmas alone in his basement apartment with his cat George. We never learn why he is alone and why there is no family about him, save only thatRead more

History of the American Santa

History of the American Santa

Santa Claus, much like Christmas itself, is a symbol of all things sacred and secular related to Christmas. From classic Coca Cola ads from early 20th century print still remembered and revered today to modern Hollywood creations like Bad Santa that we’d rather forget, the American evolution of Santa Claus just never seems to be quite complete. While Christmas in America predates the Revolution Santa did not make a splash in America until 1810. He arrived, as many Americans do, in New York City. A local merchant and leader of a local historical society by the name of John PintardRead more

The Story of Black Peter

The Story of Black Peter

By Mac Carey Before elves and eight tiny reindeer, St. Nicholas had a much more menacing assistant. Named Black Peter, this companion was the physical opposite of St. Nicholas. Tall and gaunt with a dark beard and hair, Black Peter was associated with the punitive side of Christmas. Traditionally St. Nicholas would hand out presents to good children, while it fell to Black Peter to dole out coal (and sometimes knocks on the head) to children who misbehaved. Black Peter, or Zwarte Piet in Dutch, began in Holland in the 15th century. His dark appearance is supposed to suggest aRead more

The Christmas Pickle

The Christmas Pickle

It is a quaint tradition that nobody wants to claim. And its story would not be the first tradition of Christmas born of a total fabrication. It is the little-known tradition of the Christmas pickle. The Christmas pickle is not really a pickle at all. It is a pickle-shaped ornament that is the last one hung on the tree on Christmas Eve. The first child to find the Christmas pickle gets an extra gift from Saint Nicholas. Or so the so-called legend goes. There are two other versions of the origins of the Christmas pickle. One is a family storyRead more

Legend of La Befana

Legend of La Befana

By Jeff Westover Of the many images of Halloween none can be scarier for a child than that of a witch — an ugly, stern, mean old woman with a broom. It is an element of Halloween that defies explanation, a betrayal of both history and tradition. The image of the woman-flying-on-a-broom is actually born of a legend of Christmas — and a tradition still widely celebrated in a figure from Italy known as La Befana. This is her story. To those who would see her from the road she appeared to be nothing more than a lonely old womanRead more

The Real First Christmas

The Real First Christmas

By Jeff Westover There is a saying common among Christian believers: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” This saying speaks to the eternal nature of the soul and that thought is at the very center of Christmas. In countries around the world Christmas is observed with diverse tradition. There are family gatherings, parades, secret gift giving, church services, prayers, parties and sometimes even tokens of shame for the naughty. There are as many ways to say Merry Christmas! as there are ways to actually observe Christmas. There are severalRead more

The Christmas Legend of Abraham Lincoln

The Christmas Legend of Abraham Lincoln

By B. Francis Morlan Abraham Lincoln is consistently ranked as the greatest American president. But at the same time his place in history is frequently debated for a variety of contrasting reasons: Constitutional scholars claim that Lincoln’s actions during the Civil War were so drastic that he consolidated authority in the executive branch of government illegally, upsetting the balance of powers. Religionists say that Lincoln was no Christian because he joined no church. And Christmas historians frequently dismiss Abraham Lincoln as one of the least inclined of American presidents to celebrate Christmas. After all, Lincoln did not have a ChristmasRead more

The True Story of Silent Night

The True Story of Silent Night

The story has become yet another chapter in the book of Christmas legend. The year was 1914 and soldiers on both sides of the battlefield somewhere in France were enduring a dark and frozen Christmas Eve night. World War I — the Great War, as it was called — eventually took the lives of more than 10 million people. But it is doubtless that the mostly-young men of that Christmas Eve were contemplating much more beyond their longings for home and warmth and family. When soldiers on the German line placed candles on small Christmas trees and raised them aboveRead more