The Legend of St. Nicholas

As most of us know the legend of St. Nicholas goes back hundreds upon hundreds of years to various European countries. He had different names depending on the country and some historians believe that a Bishop in Asia Minor became St. Nicholas as far back as 325 A.D.! Legend states that after his death on December 6 he was adopted as the patron saint of children and this became St. Nicholas Day. For centuries, children were visited on that night by a gift bearing old man with a long white beard who rode on a horse. Over the years he went through many name changes – Father Christmas, Pere Noel, etc. depending on country and religion and he also developed a split personality or alter ego – meaning he could either reward or punish. That brings me to my name – Knecht – and German heritage! In Germany, St. Nicholas’ alter ego was Knecht Rupert who rewarded good children with fruit but in most cases arrived to frighten the naughty ones. Maybe I’m related to him! Many years ago I acquired this original newspaper illustration of Knecht Rupert from the December 25, 1880 issue of The Queen – notice the frightened looks of two of the children!

Our modern Santa Claus is a composite figure, drawn from the history, legends, and folklore of many countries. He evolved from a Saint, was demoted to a somewhat evil gift bearer at times, and finally became the jolly, robust character that children know and love today. Over the years our artists have illustrated many Santas for Christmas projects – here are a few of them. Enjoy them – they will bring a smile to your face during this holiday season!

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