The Dutch, who had long held the notion that
St. Nicholas and his devilish slave, Black Peter, bounded from house to
house rewarding good children and punishing naughty ones, gradually
adopted what they believed to be a more religious view.
The Dutch-German protestant reform
movement brought with it the idea that the Christchild should be the
standard bearer for Christmas. The German word for Christchild, “Christkindl”
eventually became Kris Kringle.
The transformation from Christkindl to
Kris Kringle did not take many generations, especially with intermarriage
between the Pennsylvania Dutch and the English settlers in the New World.
Thus, despite the intentions of the Protestant reform movement, the
original meaning of the word has faded. Once thought to be the Christchild’s
chief helper, the image of Kris Kringle has reverted back to an image of
Kris Kringle is still popular as the
Santa Claus of some Pennsylvania Dutch Home Pages today. He carries a tiny
Christmas tree and enters the house through a window left open. When he
has finished decorating the tree and placing 1 the presents, he rings a
bell allowinq the household to know of his departure.
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