Thursday, February 16


Notes on St. Nicholas

We've talked here on the Shrine about how Santa Claus seems to lack the punch of St. Nicholas of Myra (literally, since the jolly old elf decked Arius in the hall...well, the Nicaea), but apparently it seems that in European folklore, anyway, the old guy still packs something of a punch. I know it's not Christmas or even close, but this was too good to pass up. From Christina Hole, The Saints in Folklore, 1965:
In Holland, St. Nicholas comes riding up from Spain on a white horse on the eve of his own festival. [...] Later in the day, he appears in person, resplendent in crimson robes and a golden mitre and followed by his Moorish servant who [...] carries a birch in his hand to beat naughty children. Then comes the dangerous moment. St. Nicholas makes a speech in which he knows a most disconcerting knowledge of every childish crime that has been committed within the past few weeks. Sometimes he demands the recitation of specially learnt prayers [...] If any child has been particularly bad, there is even talk of putting him into a sack and carrying him off to Spain. Luckily, however, the saint always relents in the end, and when these alarming preliminaries are over the presents are distributed. [...]

[The Moorish servant] is mild indeed compared to the strange pre-Christian figures who sometimes accompany the Saint in other districts. Often he is attended by a band of horned and masked demons, clad in animal skins or swathed up to their necks in rustling straw. They make a horrible noise with clanging cowbells or chains [...] In some mountain districts of Austria, St. Nicholas comes at dusk on December 6, attended by two pages and three or four demons of particularly horrible appearance who are known as Krampuses. These are the goat-men, who wear immense wooden masks with glaring eyes and jagged teeth, surmounted by horns [...] [T]hey wait outside while he distributes his gifts. There they drum and howl continuously and press their hideous faces against the window, but at leas there is a barrier of brick and glass between them and the frightened children.
Wow. Someone call HRS.

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