This is an email received from a reader in Belgium. His name is Irvin DeBack. The photo on the left was taken by Irvin during the arrival of St. Nicholas.
Some weeks ago (27th of November) overhere in Belgium, the holy Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas) and his black guards arrived with their boat from Spain.
The evening before all the children put their shoes outside the house and these are filled with carrots, turnips, and other goodies. During the evening of the Saint, sighted on a white horse, is St. Nicholas and his following, which are black men. They give out all kinds of sweets and toys to the children who were obedient during the past year. O wee those who weren’t!
The vegetables in the shoes are of course for the Saint’s horse.
The celebrations at the end of the year are full of old traditions and folklore. Some of these were used in prehistoric times, others are relatively new.
The festival history of Christmas includes the fir trees which are used nowadays to decorate the streets and homes. As history is told they were symbolizing the prehistoric people’s fertility and the power of life in those times.
They first used Christmas trees in our region in Europe more specific around Elzas and the Black Forest (France and Germany), around the 16th century. But the Christmas tree became really popular around the period between the first World War and the second World War.
From the 17th century the first Christmas decorations (balls) were used.
In a glassworks factory in Bohemen, Germany the workers had a contest to see which one could blow the biggest balls. After the winner was announced all the balls were left behind. Their wives made on the other hand money out of it by selling these Christmas balls on the local market.
In the 17th century, the first Dutch immigrants (Pelgrim Fathers) who settled in the States (New York) introduced the figure of Saint Nicholas.
They were remembering with some festivities the death of patron saint “Saint Nicholas” from Anatolie; a place somewhere in present Turkey.
Saint Nicholas lived in the first century and was known for his generosity. He used the inheritance money of his wealthy parents to aid the poor children. So he was determined to be immortal in the mind of the people.
Writers from youth books changed this figure (Saint Nicholas) to a round chubby man named “Pelznickel”, a personage from the German mythology, who was giving toys from out his sledge high above the houses to the children.
During the 20th century the Coca–Cola Company commercialized this figure as “Santa Claus” (with the white beard and red outfit –the colors from the logo Coca –Cola).
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Belgium!
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