Pennsylvania German Powwow

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December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day

Posted by Rob Phoenix on December 4, 2015 at 6:25 PM

For those of us with European ancestry, which is many of us I imagine, Saint Nicholas need not be forgotten in December in favor of good old reliable Santa Claus.  What many don't realize is that Santa Claus is a relatively modern mis-pronunciation of the name Saint Nicholas.  I believe we can thank the Dutch for this, but don't quote me on it...

 

Saint Nicholas was an actual, real life person that lived about 300 years after Christ, give or take...  He is recorded as being the youngest (or among the youngest) Bishops in the Christian church and has so many miracles attributed to him that history often identifies him as "Nicholas the Wonder-Worker".  Nicholas was born in Myra but his legends traveled the world.  He is most known for the time he saved a poor man's three daughters from an undesirable fate by secretly providing the family with enough gold to marry off the daughters.  These sacks of gold are believed by many to be the precursor of the gifts we find under the tree on December 25th.

 

 

Nicholas died on December 6th and it wasn't long before people started doing good works in his name.  In many European areas, it is tradition to acknowledge Saint Nicholas on the eve of December 6th.  Children will leave their shoes out overnight with the expectation that Saint Nicholas will leave a little something for them inside the shoes...usually candies, fruits, and such.  Depending on the European location, Saint Nicholas may be accompanied by a companion.  Whether Krampus, the demon who punished naughty children, or Black Peter, or Knecht Ruprecht, Saint Nicholas is an interesting fellow!

 

In my home, as in many homes of those with European ancestry, Saint Nicholas Eve is a time of expectation for the arrival of the Wonder Worker.  On December 6, we awaken to treats in our stockings... candies, toys, and other fun things. 

 

If your family celebrates the feast day of Saint Nicholas, may it be filled with wonder and blessings! 

 

 

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6 Comments

Reply Barbara Bellehumeur, PSU Libraries University Park, PA
8:40 PM on March 14, 2016 
Robert,

This is fascinating, your work, a powerful labor of love. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise.
Have you read the Fred Lewis Pattee House of the Black Ring, written when he was professor here at PSU? He loved the Seven Mountains Region and the Pennsylvania Dutch Culture living here. The first Mystery / Murder / Romance Novel is his in this book of the Seven Mountains and the culture which includes Bauchery and life in days when it was whole and way of life. He brought American Literature as a college course to Pennsylvania. He came from New Hampshire which find a lot like this region / State College, Lewistown, etc....there is a digitized edition on the PSU library home page. I have the Second Edition signed by Fred Lewis of this fascinating book.
Reply Barbara Bellehumeur, PSU Libraries University Park, PA
8:41 PM on March 14, 2016 
I also own a copy of John George Hohman's Pow-Wows; or, Long Lost Friend
Reply Barbara Bellehumeur, PSU Lbbibbraries University Park, PA
8:44 PM on March 14, 2016 
sorry, I always misspell Brauchery. sorry. You must be excited as the wild flowers and mountain larel are about to give up there beauty. Happy Spring
Reply Rob Phoenix
5:20 AM on September 11, 2016 
Hello! Sorry for the super delayed response, I just noticed your comments here! I have not heard of that author/professor, but I will certainly look for that book! The summer was completely sweltering here and, as such, it was not as enjoyable as usual. We spent most of the summer inside in the air conditioning... I bet you have access to all sorts of treasures in that library....

Barbara Bellehumeur, PSU Libraries University Park, PA says...
Robert,

This is fascinating, your work, a powerful labor of love. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise.
Have you read the Fred Lewis Pattee House of the Black Ring, written when he was professor here at PSU? He loved the Seven Mountains Region and the Pennsylvania Dutch Culture living here. The first Mystery / Murder / Romance Novel is his in this book of the Seven Mountains and the culture which includes Bauchery and life in days when it was whole and way of life. He brought American Literature as a college course to Pennsylvania. He came from New Hampshire which find a lot like this region / State College, Lewistown, etc....there is a digitized edition on the PSU library home page. I have the Second Edition signed by Fred Lewis of this fascinating book.
Reply Fiencyfuccecy
4:18 AM on January 24, 2017 
asd
Reply coabState
8:07 AM on January 31, 2017