According to the National Geographic website St. Nicholas was originally a Greek bishop known as a protector of orphans, sailors, and many more. The story goes on to say that in Germany, St. Nicholas transformed into a scary character who rewarded good behavior and threatened the children who misbehaved. It seems that in the Netherlands, tradition held to the kind gift giver and brought him to America.
“In the Netherlands, kids and families simply refused to give up St. Nicholas as a gift bringer. They brought Sinterklaas with them to New World colonies, where the legends of the shaggy and scary Germanic gift bringers also endured.” National Geographic,
Even when brought to America, Christmas was nothing like what we celebrate today. It was said to be more of a rowdy community blowout. The date of the holiday has changed over the centuries, celebrations have evolved, and the purpose of the holiday has changed. Over time there has been a theme of giving and then chastising the children to be good, and then commercializing the holiday. More at the National Geographic website (it does have many ads to navigate).
Many of our current Christmas holiday traditions come from the 19th century like one of my favorites, the lighted tree. The tradition of using electric lights instead of lighted candles, started 1883 with Edward Johnson hiring Thomas Edison to put electric lights on a tree for everyone to see. I thought it was interesting that a commenter on the story said they would just put a bucket of water next to the tree in case the candles caught fire. How would that fit with our modern décor? More at the Smithsonian Magazine,
I hope your holiday brings you friends, family, good food, giving to those who are less fortunate, and making a fun day for the kids. We plan to take our grandkids again this year to meet the superheroes who give in so many ways to traumatized children. I always enjoy seeing my friend, Batman, who started the nonprofit, The League of Heroes Inspired. When Christmas is about giving, it fits with new as well as old traditions.