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The Knickerbockers

The next year, on December 6, 1810, Alexander Anderson, a member of the New York Historical Society, created and distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas to those who attended the society's annual meeting (funded by John Pintard). There was an engraving of Saint Nicholas, in a bishop’s cloak; the background contains now-familiar Santa images including a stocking filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace (for the good little girl; the bad little boy received a stocking containing a bundle of switches). The woodcut had the following inscription:

Saint Nicholas, good holy man!

Put on the Tabard, best you can,

Go, clad therewith, to Amsterdam,

From Amsterdam to Hispanje,

Where apples bright of Oranje,

And likewise those granate surnam’d.

Saint Nicholas, my dear good friend!

To serve you ever was my end,

If you will, now, me something give,

I’ll serve you ever while I live.

Charles W. Jones notes that "Pintard later said that Judge Benson had procured these from an ‘ancient lady 87 years of age. Several, "gdma" Brasher and others, knew some lines, but none except Mrs. H. remembered the whole.’ Mrs. H. was probably Mrs. John Hardenbrook, who died in 1817, aged 87." (Page 342). This would put Mrs. Hardenbrook’s date of birth in 1730.

At least some parts of the verse are of great age. At pages 310-1, Jones also reproduced a fragment of a poem that appears to date from the early middle ages:

Ride he may to Amsterdam,

From Amsterdam to Spain

Put your finest tabard on,

So may you ride to Spain

With little apples from Orange.

The Spectator published a few verses concerning Santa Claus in 1815. Again we see the hanging of stockings and their filling either with goodies – or a rod.

Oh good holy man!

Whom we Sancte Claus name,

The Nursery your praise

Shall proclaim;

The day of your joyful

Visit returns,

When each little bosom

With gratitude burns,

For the gifts which at night

You so kindly impart

For the girls of your love,

And the boys of your heart.

O! Come with your painiers

And pockets well stow’d,

Our stockings shall help you

To lighten your load,

And close to the fireside

Gaily they swing

While delighted we dream

Of the presents you bring.

Oh! Bring the bright Orange

So juicy and sweet,

Bring almonds and raisins

To heighten the treat;

Rich waffles and doughnuts

Must not be forgot,

Nor Crullers and Oley-Cooks

Fresh from the pot.

But of all these fine presents

Your Saintship can find,

O! Leave not the famous

Big Cookies behind –

Or, if in your hurry,

One thing you mislay,

Let that be the Rod –

And oh! Keep it away.

Then holy St. Nicholas!

All the year,

Our books we will love

And our parents revere;

From naughty behavior

We’ll always refrain,

In hopes that you’ll come

And reward us again.

Regrettably, the author is unknown. Note the similarity of the first line to that reproduced by Anderson.

The modern Dutch tradition still includes a Sinterklaas song which is similar: Sinterklaas, goed heilig man! (St. Nicholas, Good Holy Man):

Sinterklaas, good holy man!
Put your best robe on,
ride with it to Amsterdam,
from Amsterdam to Spain,
little apples of orange,
little apples from the trees
Sinterklaas shall come!

Washington Irving comes back into the picture in 1819 and 1820 when he published The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. An instant success both in England and America, Irving purported to describe a traditional English Christmas celebration at "Bracebridge Hall" in five of the sketches he produced. The sketches contain a live description of an old Yorkshire country house at Christmas, with carol singing, Yule log, mingling of the masters and servants, holly, ivy, and mistletoe. The basis of these sketches was ostensibly an actual visit to Aston Hall near Birmingham in 1818, plus visits in 1831 to Barlborough Hall and Newstead Abbey, accompanied by Sir Walter Scott, who had been delighted with ‘Diedrich Knickerbocker’s’ History of New York." Irving later admitted that some portions of the sketches were products of his imagination. Nevertheless at the time, they provided an immediate reinforcement of the desire to bring Christmas into the home.

In 1821, a small, sixteen-page booklet appeared, titled A New Year’s Present for the Little Ones from Five to Twelve, Part III. It was about Christmas, and was the first to picture Santa Claus in a sleigh drawn by a reindeer. Published by William B. Gilley of New York, no credit was given to either the author or the illustrator. Part of the verse is reproduced below:

Old Santeclaus with much delight

His reindeer drives this frosty night,

O’er chimney tops, and tracks of snow,

To bring his yearly gifts to you.

The steady friend of virtuous youth,

The friend of duty, and of truth,

Each Christmas eve he joys to come

Where love and peace have made their home.

Through many houses he has been,

And various beds and stockings seen;

Some, white as snow, and neatly mended,

Others, that seem’d for pigs intended.

Where e’er I found good girls or boys,

That hated quarrels, strife and noise,

I left an apple, or a tart,

Or wooden gun, or painted cart;

To some I have a pretty doll,

To some a peg-top, or a ball;

No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets,

To blow their eyes up, or their pockets.

No drums to stun their Mother’s ear,

Nor swords to make their sisters fear;

But pretty books to store their mind

With knowledge of each various kind.

But where I found the children naughty,

In manners rude, in temper haughty,

Thankless to parents, liars, swearers,

Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers,

I left a long, black, birchen rod.

Such as the dread command of God

Directs a Parent’s hand to use

When virtue’s path his sons refuse.

The booklet contained eight colored engravings. The price was 25 cents; 18 cents if plain.


 

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Collections of Christmas Carols & Poetry
Compiled and Edited by
Douglas D. Anderson

Victorian Visions
A Christmas Poetry Collection

Divinely Inspired
A Christmas Poetry Collection

The Bridegroom Cometh
Poetry For The Advent

Other books by Doug Anderson

Once A Lovely Shining Star

A Christmas Poetry Collection

So Gracious Is The Time

A Christmas Poetry Collection

How Still The Night

The Christmas Poems of Father Andrew, S.D.C.

 Father and Daughter

Christmas Poems by Frances and William Havergal

Now, Now The Mirth Comes

Christmas Poetry by Robert Herrick

What Sudden Blaze Of Song

The Christmas Poems of Rev. John Keble

 A Holy Heavenly Chime

The Christmastide Poems of Christina Georgina Rossetti

All My Heart This Night Rejoices

The Christmas Poems of Catherine Winkworth

A Victorian Carol Book

Favorites from the 19th Century —
Still favorites today!

Other Books by Doug Anderson

A Psalter – A Book of the Psalms Arranged by Luther's Categories

Betbüchlein: A Personal Prayer Book, a recreation of Luther's 1529 prayer book

Daily Prayer

Luther's Passional

Luther's Writings on Prayer: A Selection

Devotions for the Advent – 2009

The Lenten Sermons of Martin Luther, Second Edition

Descriptions of all these volumes can be seen at
Books by Doug Anderson


The Hymns and Carols of Christmas
Douglas D. Anderson

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