Category Archives: History

Weihnachtsmann

Today he is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white bearded man—sometimes with glasses—wearing a red coat with white fur collar and cuffs, white-fur-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots and who carries a bag full of gifts for children. This image became popular in the United States in the 19th century due to the significant influence of the 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas.

In 1821, the book A New-year’s present, to the little ones from five to twelve was published

nastsantBW150
Thomas Nast

in New York. It contained an anonymous poem describing Santeclaus on a reindeer sleigh, bringing presents to children. Some modern ideas of Santa Claus grew after the anonymous publication of the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (better known today as “The Night Before Christmas”) in the  Sentinel on 23 December 1823 by Thomas Nast.

Clement Clarke Moore later claimed authorship, though some scholars contest persuasively that Henry Livingston, Jr. (who died nine years before Moore’s claim) was the author. St. Nick is described as being “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf” with “a little round belly”, that “shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly”, in spite of which the “miniature sleigh” and “tiny reindeer” still indicate that he is physically diminutive. The reindeer  were also named: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem (Dunder and Blixem came from the old Dutch words for thunder and lightning, which were later changed to the more German sounding Donner and Blitzen).

By 1845 ‘Kris Kringle’ was a common variant of Santa in parts of the U.S. A magazine article from 1853, describing American Christmas customs , refers to children hanging up their stockings on Christmas Eve for ‘a fabulous personage’ whose name varies: in Pennsylvania he is usually called ‘Krishkinkle’ but in New York he is ‘St. Nicholas’ or ‘Santa Claus’. The author quotes Moore’s poem in its entirety, saying that its descriptions apply to Krishkinkle too

From The German Way: Nikolaustag – 6. Dezember
On the night of December 5 (in some places, the evening of Dec. 6), in small communities

Weihnachtsman
Photo by James Martin

in Austria and the Catholic regions of Germany, a man dressed as der Heilige Nikolaus (St. Nicholas, who resembles a bishop and carries a staff) goes from house to house to bring small gifts to the children. Accompanying him are several ragged looking, devil-like Krampusse, who mildly scare the children. Although Krampus/Knecht Ruprecht carries eine Rute (a switch), he only teases the children with it, while St. Nicholas hands out small gifts to the children. In some regions, there are other names for both Nikolaus and Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht in northern Germany). As early as 1555, St. Nicholas brought gifts on Dec. 6, the only “Christmas” gift-giving time during the Middle Ages, and Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus was a more ominous figure. In Alpine Europe Krampus is still a scary, devil-like figure. The custom found in Austria and Bavaria also happens around December 5 or 6, but it also can take place at various times during November or December, depending on the community.

Pelznickel is the fur-clad Santa of the Palatinate (Pfalz) in northwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald region of Baden-Württemberg. The German-American Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was born in Landau in der Pfalz (not the Bavarian Landau). It is said that he borrowed at least a couple of features from the Palatine Pelznickel he knew as a child in creating the image of the American Santa Claus—the fur trim and boots. In some North American German communities Pelznickel became “Belsnickle.” (The literal translation of Pelznickel is “fur-Nicholas.”) The Odenwald Pelznickel is a bedraggled character who wears a long coat, boots, and a big floppy hat. He carries a sack full of apples and nuts that he gives to the children. In various areas of the Odenwald, Pelznickel also goes by the names of Benznickel, Strohnickel, and Storrnickel.

Der Weihnachtsmann is the name for Santa Claus or Father Christmas in most of Germany today. The term used to be confined mostly to the northern and mostly Protestant areas of Germany, but has spread across the country in recent years. Around Christmastime in Berlin, Hamburg, or Frankfurt, you’ll see Weihnachtsmänner on the street or at parties in their red and white costumes, looking a lot like an American Santa Claus. You can even rent a Weihnachtsmann in most larger German cities.

The term “Weihnachtsmann” is a very generic German term for Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus. The German Weihnachtsmann is a fairly recent Christmas tradition having little if any religious or folkloric background. In fact, the secular Weihnachtsmann only dates back to around the mid-19th century. As early as 1835, Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the words to “Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann” — still a popular German Christmas carol. The first image depicting a bearded Weihnachtsmann in a hooded, fur mantle was a woodcut (Holzschnitt) by the Austrian painter Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871). Von Schwind’s first 1825 drawing was entitled “Herr Winter.” A second woodcut series in 1847 bore the title “Weihnachtsmann” and even showed him carrying a Christmas tree, but still had little resemblance to the modern Weihnachtsmann. Over the years, the Weihnachtsmann became a rough mixture of St. Nicholas and Knecht Ruprecht. A 1932 survey found that German children were split about evenly along regional lines between believing in either the Weihnachtsmann or the Christkind. But today a similar survey would show the Weihnachtsmann winning out in almost all of Germany.

For all the children young and old…No matter what you call him… Just Remember…

BELIEVE!

 

 

 

 

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Coming to America

In the decade of the 1830s alone over 120,000 Germans immigrated to America, and one-third of those settled in Missouri. Those are the emigrants that made it. Thousands would not survive the journey at sea or the difficult overland trek westward.

Nicholas Krekel: “In the fall of the year 1832 we sailed from Bremen. It took about three months, we landed at New York, went up the Hudson River to Albany, and from Albany to Nicholas KrekelErie by canal. Intending to go to Cleveland Ohio from there and to Missouri. On arriving at Erie, there was so much ice in the lake that we could not make the trip, so we went overland to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, a distance of 160 miles. Mother, my sister Katherine (11 years), myself (Nicholas Krekel) rode in the wagon. Father, my three oldest brothers, Godfred [sic], Arnold and Frank walked. On this overland trip my mother took cold which continued to get worse when coming down the Ohio River, so we landed at Louisville, Kentucky to get medical assistance and religious consolation. She died there on December 14, 1832 and was also buried there. Three years later Arnold went there to find his mother’s grave but the city had been built beyond it. The voyage across the Ocean took 9 weeks, the overland trip from Erie to Pittsburgh took about 3 weeks. After her burial we continued our way to St. Louis. On arriving there we put up at the William Tell house on Main Street, a two story stone building.” 

Of the forty thousand immigrants that arrived in Missouri in the ’30s, at least one-fourth of those Germans chose the city of St. Louis. The city’s population grew from approximately 15,000 to 35,000, meaning that half of that growth was by Germans alone. The city’s Germans were often affluent and educated, supporting six German newspapers. The sound of German voices filled the air and it was said one could spend the day and never hear a word of English.

“From there we came to St. Charles and were there during the Christmas holidays and New Year. A man from the western part of the county named Cashew and his son named Jackson were there with a team of four horses having been to St. Louis. They took us to our new home. While looking about for a location we stopped with a man named Bonet, a bachelor that made spinning wheels (the place was later owned by the Braehus family) he showed my father a piece of land owned by the government on which a man named Wood had built a log house. After looking at the land which was covered with heavy timber my father went to St. Louis where the land office was and bought it for the sum of $__for ____ acres. He paid the man Wood $9 for the log cabin that was on it, he seemed well paid and settled further towards Warren County”

Warren County had been carved out of Montgomery County in 1833. St. Charles County which had been created out of the St. Charles District of the Louisiana Territory in 1812 had stretched to the Pacific Ocean until the counties like Montgomery and Franklin were cropped-cropped-1823-missouricreated in 1818. At least 30,000 German immigrants chose to go west in the 1830s, settling in St. Charles, Warren, Franklin and Gasconade counties. They settled along the Missouri River valley creating the towns of Dutzow, Dortmund and Hamburg. They helped the town of Washington grow and become a German town. They turned The Philadelphia Settlement Society into the German town of Hermann.

“The name of the vessel we came to America in was Isabella. Two years later Anton Hoester’s father and family came over in the same vessel. In the year 1835 it was wrecked at sea. Before leaving Europe my father had decided to settle in this neighborhood. A criminal Judge named Duden with whom my father was personally acquainted had come to America several years previous and wrote such favorable letters to Europe that my [father] thought well of this country”

In 1829, Gottfried Duden published A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a Stay Along the Missouri (During the years 1824, ’25,’26., 1827). ReportBorn in Remscheid in 1789, the young attorney had lived with the farmer Jacob Haun, even though he had purchased a large parcel of land himself. Observing the life of the “American farmer” and describing the life of Missouri’s earliest residents Duden described a place where freedom and opportunity were almost taken for granted, causing some Germans to decry Duden’s description as an impossible fairy tale.

“On our way there through St. Charles County we passed prairie lands that now are fine farms, but we were under the impression that where no trees grew, no vegetables would grow. So we settled in the dense forest and it took several years of hard labor to clear the land, burn the logs and the brush. Many large walnut trees were cut and burned.”

Duden’s farm was approximately 50 miles west of St. Louis on the eastern edge of Warren County adjoining St. Charles County, near the Missouri River. In 1832, a group of Germans often referred to as “the Berlin Society” made the first German settlement in Missouri when a town named Dutzow was established here. The village is named after the former estate in Germany of its founder, Johann Wilhelm Bock and adjoins Duden’s farm to the south.

“In sight of our home in Germany was the home of Carl Deus. Carl’s father was a brewer, distiller and coal merchant. The family was quite wealthy and of high social class.”

The conditions in Germany were desperate following the Napoleonic War, leading to overpopulation and famine. Revolutions were stirring among the students, and hundreds of such books as Duden’s were being written about Russia, Brazil, and England as places to immigrate to.

“In the year 1832 when Carl’s father heard that our family intended going to America he asked my father to wait until ’34 when there was a colony coming over, but my father was of a disposition not inclined to subject himself to anothers’ dictation so came alone with his family”

The Giessen Emigration Society  was founded by friends of the Krekel family, Paul Follenius and Friedrich Muench, whose farms adjoined Duden’s to the north. Their arrival in Missouri in July and August of 1834 brought over 500 Germans who settled all over St. Charles County, including St. Paul, Cottleville and St. Charles. By 1850 St. Charles County was over 50% German with many of them being established second generation families.

Next: Life of a German Immigrant Family

This is the voice of Nicholas Krekel and the story as told to his daughter Bertha Krekel. He was the founder of O’Fallon, Missouri, born in Germany on August 30, 1825 and emigrated with his family to America in 1832. The story was shared in his final years just shortly before his death. The journal has been graciously shared with me by a descendant, John Griesenauer. The author extends her utmost appreciation for allowing her to share this wonderful piece of family history.

From: https://stcharlescountyhistory.org/ 

THE MISSOURI IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE: FACES AND PLACES

“Remember, remember always, that all of us… are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”  – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1938

A collection of contemporary and archival photography, and is particularly relevant as it celebrates the irrefutable role of immigrants in the development of St. Louis and Missouri and simultaneously illuminates the human side of immigration in Missouri today. In the early 19th century, color-transparent-55x60Missouri began welcoming waves of immigrants from Germany and Ireland, and by the turn of the century, Italian, Polish, Greek, and Eastern European Jewish communities had settled in the state. By 1900, St. Louis, Missouri was the fourth-largest city in America and home to one of the most predominantly foreign-born populations in the country. THE MISSOURI IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE: FACES AND PLACES exhibit from the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates was curated by Danny Gonzales and features photos by Juan Montana, Amela Sinanagic, Oscar Pedroza and Rita Chu. This project was created in support of the MHC_logo_stacked_dkblue-brn-300x146German Heritage Corridor of Missouri and in partnership with the Missouri Germans Consortium and the Missouri Humanities Council.

 

German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA®, Washington, D.C. will host Missouri Immigrant Experience: Faces and Places June 1 through gahf_logoAugust 5 at the German-American Heritage Museum of the USA™ located at 719 Sixth Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, June 1 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM featuring Joan Suarez and Dorris Keeven-Franke as guest speakers introducing the exhibit. Executive Director Erika Harms and GAHF Board Member Megan Lott will represent the German-American Heritage Foundation at the opening reception. The museum is open from 11 AM to 5 PM Tuesday through Friday and Saturday from 12 PM to 5 PM. It is closed on Sunday and Monday. Museum admission prices are $7 for adults, $5 for students, and free for GAHF members and children under 12. More info at www.gahmusa.org.

About the German-American Heritage Museum of the USA™: The mission of the German-American Heritage Museum is to collect, record, preserve and exhibit the rich cultural legacy of Americans of German-speaking ancestry and make their contributions to American history available to audiences of all ages. The museum also seeks to highlight the political, cultural and economic relations between Germany and the United States. The museum opened in 2010 in the heart of the old European-American section of Washington.