Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving and On to St. Nicholas Day!

I hope everyone had a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving. Mine was very quiet. A bright spot was that the sickly little cat my son and daughter-in-law found a year-and-a-half ago, and promptly brought to me, ate mushed-up white turkey meat very, very well. I have to coax him to eat, and something he will eat willingly one day, he will refuse the next. Over seven vets now have not determined why he is so thin. We've tried so many tests and x-rays and ultrasounds. He is very happy and energetic, but I worry about his weight, even though he is a dastardly creature! 

Now our thoughts turn towards St. Nicholas Day! December 6th is his day, and the eve, December 5th, is when the children put out their shoes  (or a special "St. Nicholas boot") and leave food for his reindeer or donkey, in many olde countries. 

We don't have St. Nicholas in that form in the U.S., but we do harken to him in songs and poems where we hear about "Good St. Nick." He was evidently such a good man that he was later recognized as a veritable saint.

We also don't have Belsnickel, a very olde and strange gent. Many have heard of him because of the television show "The Office," where a character with a dour Pennsylvania Dutch background introduces the Old World precursor of St. Nick/Santa. The following is a summation from Wikipedia:

"Belsnickel is a man wearing furs and sometimes a mask with a long tongue. He is typically very ragged and disheveled. He wears torn, tattered, and dirty clothes, and he carries a switch in his hand with which to beat naughty children, but also pocketsful of cakes, candies, and nuts for good children.

"A first-hand 19th-century account of the "Beltznickle" tradition in Allegany County, Maryland, can be found in Brown's Miscellaneous Writings, a collection of essays by Jacob Brown (born 1824). Writing of a period around 1830, Brown says, "we did not hear of" Santa Claus. Instead, the tradition called for a visit by a different character altogether:

He was known as Kriskinkle, Beltznickle and sometimes as the Christmas Woman. Children then not only saw the mysterious person, but felt him or rather his stripes upon their backs with his switch. The annual visitor would make his appearance some hours after dark, thoroughly disguised, especially the face, which would sometimes be covered with a hideously ugly phiz [mask] - generally wore a female garb - hence the name Christmas Woman - sometimes it would be a veritable woman but with masculine force and action. He or she would be equipped with an ample sack about the shoulders filled with cakes, nuts, and fruits, and a long hazel switch which was supposed to have some kind of a charm in it as well as a sting. One would scatter the goodies upon the floor, and then the scramble would begin by the delighted children, and the other hand would ply the switch upon the backs of the excited youngsters - who would not show a wince, but had it been parental discipline there would have been screams to reach a long distance."

My family certainly kept the switch tradition alive. I often got switches (small flexible branches/long twigs) for Christmas, and I was often "switched" with them.

This is a modified representation of Belsnickel, straddling the fence between him and St. Nicholas. Note he still has his bundle of switches and a rather aggressive stance. For myself, I prefer the genial and gentle St. Nicholas!

Belsnickel St. Nick Pennsylvania Dutch Santa


  1. Thank you for stopping by my blog today and leaving your sweet comment. Wishing you a lovely weekend.
    God bless you,
    Connie :)

  2. Very interesting! The switch thing no one does that anymore. My dad never spanked us but my mom would get the wooden spoon out now and then. I turned out ok I guess but to think of santa do that yikes

  3. I must say I also prefer a more gentle St. Nicholas.
    I hope your little cat will soon gain some weight.


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