Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas Day

So, "on December 6, 1809, the public was offered a chance to buy copies of A History of New York, by Diedrich Knickerbocker, a mysterious old gent they'd read about in the newspaper. Folks so delighted in his comical retelling of the colonial past and the way he poked fun at modern politicians that the book was an instant success – for Washington Irving, of course.
   He made up [Mr. Knickerbocker] the author, wrote the book, and made sure that it came out on the feast day of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas), who was much loved by NY's Dutch colonists.  The good saint had always been pictured as a tall, thin bishop riding a white horse - that is, until W.I., in his book, gave us a stout, jolly St. Nick, who 'rode over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children.'"
    The above is a passage from my picture book bio of bon vivant, diplomat Washington Irving, published a few years back by the Nat'l Geographic Society, quoted here in honor of my book, of course, AND this being St. Nicholas Day, and my wanting to point out that Clement Clarke Moore got his notion of jolly St. Nick from Wash Irving, America's first international celebrity author, who also wrote the spooky Legend of Sleepy Hollow; who, by the way, almost singlehandedly popularized the notion of a traditional, wassail-slurping, mistletoe-smooching, sleigh-riding, Yule-log-flickering, Merrie Olde English Christmas

    And, by the by, consider this list of a few notable individuals who entered the world's stage on the 6th of December: the great French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin (1805 - did you know that the great Houdini took that stage name in honor of Robert-Houdin? Well he did.)),  character actress Agnes Moorehead  (1900), Prohibition-era gangster, Lester Joseph Gillis, a.k.a. "Baby Face" Nelson, and journalist/literary critic/poet, Joyce Kilmer (1886), whose parents named their little boy 'Joyce.' Should you happen to click onto the Wikipedia link you'll discover that this man, mostly remembered these days, if at all, for having written a lovely little poem about trees, was a member of NY's "Fighting 69th" Infantry Regiment.  Sergeant Kilmer was 31 years old when he was killed in WWI, in the summer of 1918 at the Second Battle of the Marne. Just for you to know.  
Sgt. Alfred Joyce Kilmer

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