The Holland Museum
31 West 10th Street, Holland, Michigan
17 November 2001–4 February 2002
Plates, mugs, toys, molds and much more illustrated European St. Nicholas traditions from the Netherlands, France, Czech Republic, England, Austsria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Switzerland. Text explained customs, illustrated by objects from each country.
Saint Nicholas was born about AD 280 in Patara, which is in the modern country of Turkey. His wealthy parents raised him to be a faithful Christian. While he was still a boy, they died of the plague. As he matured, young Nicholas used all his riches to give aid to those who were less fortunate. While still a young man, he was chosen to be the Bishop of Myra which was near Patara. His many acts of compassion and mercy caused him to be revered as a protector and helper of those in need.
One story tells of a poor man who had three unmarried daughters. They would have to be sold into slavery because there was no money for the dowries necessary for them to marry good husbands. When Nicholas learned of this, he secretly threw a small pouch of gold into the house so the father could provide the eldest with a dowry. He did this again two more times–once for each daughter. Some say the gold landed in stockings left to dry before the fire, others that it landed in shoes, which is why some children today hang up stockings for gifts and others put out shoes.
Candy containers and chocolates from Salzburg and Vienna
Stories and legends of good St. Nicholas spread throughout the world. He became the most popular saint and the gift-giver in much of Europe where he still visits children on his feast day, December 6th. Various immigrant groups brought Saint Nicholas traditions to the New World where the they were gradually adopted and transformed into "Santa Claus." By his generosity to the weak and needy, especially children, St. Nicholas lives on as a model for giving.