Tuesday, December 1, 6:30 p.m.
Presented by the Davenport Public Library
History and Christmas buffs will be treated to a ho-ho-whole lot of entertaining factoids in a new virtual presentation on December 1, with the Davenport Public Library (in conjunction with the German American Heritage Center) hosting an online, holiday-themed treasure trove of world history in From Turkey to Germany and Beyond: The Legend & Celebrations of St. Nicholas Day.
St. Nicholas, who was always noted for his generosity, is the patron saint of Russia and Greece, a number of world cities, and sailors and children, among many other groups. According to the encyclopedia Brittanica, “After the Reformation, St. Nicholas was largely forgotten in Protestant Europe, although his memory was kept alive in Holland as Sinterklaas. The Dutch took the tradition to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the American colonies, where he was transformed into Santa Claus by the English-speaking majority. His legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. The resulting image of Santa Claus in the United States crystallized in the 19th century, and he has ever since remained the patron of the gift-giving festival of Christmas, while in Britain, he was largely replaced with Father Christmas.
“In parts of northern Europe, particularly the Low Countries and some German-speaking areas, St. Nicholas Day has remained a time when children are given special cookies, candies, and gifts. In many places, children leave letters for St. Nicholas and carrots or grass for his donkey or horse. In the morning, they find small presents under their pillows or in the shoes, stockings, or plates they have set out for him. Oranges and chocolate coins are common treats that represent St. Nicholas’s legendary rescue of three impoverished girls by paying their marriage dowries with gold. Candy canes, which have the shape of a bishop’s crosier are also given. It is thought that over the centuries, the legendary St. Nicholas was merged with similar cultural and religious figures. Significant among these were the pagan Knecht Ruprecht and the Roman figure of Befana, as well as the Christ Child (Christkind, or Kris Kringle).”
From Turkey to Germany and Beyond: The Legend & Celebrations of St. Nicholas Day will be presented at 6:30 p.m. on December 1 via Zoom meeting, and registration is required, with the event URL sent to participants through e-mail. For more information on the free virtual program, call (563)326-7832 or visit DavenportLibrary.com.