Santa Claus: St. Nicholas in America
Whereas Belsnickel and the Christ Child appeared around Christ-mas, St. Nicholas traditionally brought his gifts on the eve of his feast day, December 6 (see also St. Nicholas’s Day). Historical evidence suggests that the gift-giving customs surrounding the saint were well known in the Netherlands during the eighteenth century. By contrast, only a few scattered references to beliefs and customs surrounding St. Nicholas can be found among Dutch and German immigrants to the United States during this same era. Apparently, folk traditions concerning St. Nicholas as a winter season gift giver did not cross the Atlantic with Dutch and German immigrants in any great force.