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Santa Claus and the Julian Calendar

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  • Fr. Panagiotes Carras
    DID YOU KNOW? The American version of the Santa Claus figure received its inspiration and its name from the Dutch tradition of Sinter Klaas, brought by
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 24, 2004
       DID YOU KNOW?

      The American version of the Santa Claus figure received its inspiration and its name from the Dutch tradition of Sinter Klaas, brought by settlers to New York in the 17th century.   Protestant Holland and the American Colonies still followed the Julian Calendar because they viewed the Gregorian Calendar as Papist. 

      At the time of the Protestant Reformation, Holland was a seafaring nation and had a history of many miracles attributed to St. Nicholas. In spite of all Protestant attempts to erase veneration to the Saints, the Dutch would not give up St. Nicholas and continued celebrating his Feast Day, which is on December 6th according to the Julian Calendar.  

      When the Dutch settled in the New World, their largest settlement was New Amsterdam which later became New York.  In 1752, England and its colonies adopted the New Calendar.  The difference between the Julian Calendar and the New Calendar was 11 days so the Feast of St. Nicholas would fall on December 17 according to the New Calendar.  Part of the Dutch celebration was the giving of gifts as a remembrance of St. Nicholas as an alms-giver.  The Americans soon associated this practice with their Christmas.

      As early as 1773 the name appeared in the American press as Saint A. Claus, but it was the popular author Washington Irving who gave Americans their first detailed information about the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas. In his History of New York, published in 1809, Irving described the arrival of the Saint on horseback each Eve of Saint Nicholas.

      This Dutch-American Saint Nick achieved his fully Americanized form in 1823 in the poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas by writer Clement Clarke Moore.

      Coca Cola got hold of him in 1931 and the rest we know.

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