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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

December 2018

At our dinner meeting held on December 18, 2018, Jim Beckner gave a very interesting presentation about the history of Santa Claus and other Christmas traditions. Jim came dressed as a Civil War era Santa Claus, as shown on the cover of the January 3, 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly.

Jim provided the following information:

  • The historical Santa Claus originated from Saint Nicholas of Myra (270-343 AD), who was a Christian Bishop in the town of Myra, located in modem day Turkey. Saint Nicholas is typically depicted as an older man with a beard, who wanted to help the poor. He also performed many miracles.
  • Santa Claus was known as "Sinterklaas" in the Netherlands. He was a legendary figure based on the life of Saint Nicholas.
  • Jim said when he was young, he was chastised by his mother for using Xmas as an abbreviation for the word Christmas. However, the use of Xmas dates back to the 16th Century. X comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of a Greek word, which in English is Christ.
  • Santa Claus was first used in the American press in 1773. Thomas Nast (1840-1902), known as the "Father of the American Cartoon", did the most to give us the image of Santa Claus in a stocking cap. In the January 3, 1863 Harper's Weekly, Nast showed Santa giving socks and toys to Union soldiers. Nast was a loyal republican, who helped get Lincoln elected in 1864 and Grant elected in 1868. Nast was a scourge to Democratic Representative "Boss" Tweed and Tammany Hall. He also kept Horace Greeley from getting elected.
  • The poem commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas" was originally titled "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" and was published anonymously in 1823. Clement Clarke Moore claimed authorship of the poem in the New York Book of Poetry, which was published in 1837.
  • Images of Santa Claus were used in advertising by Coca Cola in the 1930's.
  • The tradition of Christmas trees was common in the United States in the early 1800’s. The first image of a Christmas tree was published in 1836 as the front piece to Hermann Bokum's book The Stranger's Gift.
  • Stockings were typically hung on the fireplace, in order to dry them after washing.
  • Saint Nicholas Day was celebrated on December 6th. The Western Christian Church placed Christmas on December 25th according to the Gregorian calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory in October of 1582.
  • In the 17th Century, the Dutch Calvinists and English Puritans did not allow celebrating Christmas. They thought it should be a day of prayer and not a day for drinking and partying. Lavish celebrations were not in accordance with their faith.
  • The song "Silent Night" is a melody that was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber. The lyrics ("Stille Nacht") were written in 1816 by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. It was first performed in 1818. The version sung by Bing Crosby is the third best selling single of all time.
  • The story of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was written by Robert Lewis May. The popular song was written by a Montgomery Ward copywriter and was sung by Gene Autry.

Here are other photos from the meeting ...

Chip Buckner presenting Dave Pattison with the Valient Service Award

Dave and Marilyn Pattison

Our December Speaker, Jim Beckner

Chip, Jordan, and Deborah Buckner

Clara and Arnold Schofield

Judi Beckner

Fannie and Rudy Wrobel

Dennis Garstang and Lane Smith

Peggy Wright, Carol Price, and Bud Price

Austin H. and Austin C. Turney

Lila Aamodt

Jim Tucker

Our illustrious president, Chip Buckner

Fr. Dave Holloway

Don Bates and Arnold Schofield with the monthly live book auction

Dick Titterington

Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
P.O. Box 6202
Shawnee Mission, KS 66206

Email: info@cwrtkc.org          Membership Application

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