New Netherland and Beyond
Fun Facts and Artifacts
New Netherland Origin of Santa Claus
The name Santa Claus, applied to the jolly old saint who fills the children's stockings on Christmas Eve, originated in New Netherland, according to the Rev. Christian F. Reisner, pastor of the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, New York City.
Some deluded plain speakers would explain to the children that there is no Santa Claus. They ought to be imprisoned before they can spoil life's sweetest joys. No memory so gladdens us as the recollection of the time we hung up our stockings and arose eagerly to see what the happy bewhiskered Santa had brought us.
The name is modern and originated on Manhattan Island. The Christmas customs clustering about the "jolly old fellow" are eclectic in America. Kris Kringle is formed from the German word Christkindlein (Christ child). In many countries it is supposed that Santa Claus, Kris Kingle, or whatever name he is called, is a sort of John the Baptist. If the child has been bad a birch rod is left in the stocking. If he has been good, a mark of approval is put upon it. The Christ Child then visits the house and places in the stocking of the good boys gladdening gifts. The bad children are passed by.
The Dutch, who landed upon Manhattan Island, took St. Nicholas as their patron saint. His figure was upon the prow of their boat. Even the first church erected was given his name. Its lineal successor at Fifth avenue and Forty-eighth street, New York, still bears his name.
The Dutch who settled Manhattan, having selected St. Nicholas as their patron, moved the date of celebrating his birth from December 6th to December 25th, and then changed the spelling of the saint's name from San Claas, the Dutch spelling, until it became Santa Claus. Originally the shoes, placed by the fireside to warm, were the receivers for gifts. Then came the hanging of the stocking.
The Christmas tree was not finally adopted in this country until about 1860. It had appeared along the Rhine about 1800, and did not spread over Germany until 1850. At Any rate we must conclude that the lesson of the tree was two-fold, the greenness suggested unbroken life despite the winter's killing frosts and the candles (lights), reminded of the Star of Bethlehem.
America adopted the Christmas tree on the suggestion and example of German Immigrants. It will thus be seen that the best Christmas observances are in America and that they are the product of selecting the most cheerful and attractive customs from other countries. New York, so generally supposed to be heartless, gave us the name of Santa Claus, together with its heart-enriching customs.
Condensed from The New York Times, December 26, 1912.