SAINT NICHOLAS’ BELEAGUERED BLACK COMPANION(S): A STUDY OF THE CONTESTED NATURE AND LATE ANTIQUE HISTORY OF SANTA’S HELPERS IN THE DUTCH SAINT NICHOLAS FEAST

Akroterion

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Title SAINT NICHOLAS’ BELEAGUERED BLACK COMPANION(S): A STUDY OF THE CONTESTED NATURE AND LATE ANTIQUE HISTORY OF SANTA’S HELPERS IN THE DUTCH SAINT NICHOLAS FEAST
 
Creator Müller, L
 
Subject
Saint Nicholas; Black Peter; Dutch folkloric history; grain trade; late antiquity
 
Description The Netherlands has a long history of celebrating Saint NicholasDay. On the eve of the 5th of December, the Dutch commemorate the date of death of the popular bishop from Myra, who protected citizens and sailors and gave his money to the poor. Bishop Nicholas, who came from a well-to-do Christian merchant family of Greek descent, lived in Asia Minor during the fourth century CE.  Today, during the European winter months, a version of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) features prominently in Dutch public spaces, especially in shopping malls and bakeries. Most often the saint is accompanied by one or more companions. This article explores the possible late antique origins of these companion(s), who have recently become embroiled in heated Saint Nicholas debates in the Netherlands on Dutch racism and the slave trade. I will posit that the Saint’s current companion(s) have semi-historical origins which may be traced back to North African grain merchants, traders and sailors who in late antiquity regularly sailed from Alexandria to Myra. The proposal challenges contending theories that the Saint Nicholas legends did not have companions of African descent before the nineteenth century. The investigation is significant for questions relating to the current transformations in the appearance of Saint Nicholas’ companion(s) and whether they should remain or rather beeliminated from the Dutch Saint Nicholas tradition.
 
Publisher Stellenbosch University, Department of Ancient Studies
 
Contributor
 
Date 2021-03-11
 
Type info:eu-repo/semantics/article
info:eu-repo/semantics/publishedVersion
Peer-reviewed Article

 
Format application/pdf
 
Identifier http://akroterion.journals.ac.za/pub/article/view/1026
10.7445/65-0-1026
 
Source Akroterion; Vol 65 (2020)
2079-2883
0303-1896
 
Language eng
 
Relation http://akroterion.journals.ac.za/pub/article/view/1026/1048
 
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Rights Copyright (c) 2021 Akroterion
 

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