Tag Archives: Christmas

Sam Coplon: Santa Claus of the Adirondacks


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The collection of letters to Santa that appeared in this space last week epitomized life in the rural regions of northern New York a century ago. At Christmastime, children from families living a common, low-income existence asked Santa for the simplest of items: a pencil and notepad, candy and nuts, or clothing to keep them warm in the winter. Toys and playthings were often secondary requests if they appeared at all.

But the simple desires from long ago reflected something other than just poverty. A good number of rural folks were self-sufficient, and all family members, even young children, took part in the daily chores of life: working the fields and garden, milking cows, collecting eggs, adding logs to the fire, and so on. An early understanding of the effort behind daily sustenance was evident in children’s annual humble Christmas yearnings for pencils, books, and treats for the tummy, suggesting an appreciation for things in general, and gifts in particular.

Among those who came to the Adirondacks and developed a deep admiration for this rustic lifestyle was Samuel Coplon, who embraced the people, reciprocated their generosity, and in time became a nationally known hero of North Country Christmases, earning him the title Santa Claus of the Adirondacks. Continue reading

A Baker’s Dozen: An Albany Fable


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Baas throwing the Ugly Old Lady out of his bakery, One Dutch legend grew up around the Oranje village baker who lived and ran his bakery on Pearl Street. It was this baker, Wouter Albertz vanden Uythoff commonly called Baas (Boss), who first baked the St. Nicholas cookie that so excited the children. Wouter Albertz vanden Uythoff used a cookie cutter to cut the images of St. Nicholas so only he could make the familiar cake.

Baas was Dutch from his big feet to his round bald head. Everything that was Dutch was right and everything else was wrong and that was all there was to it. He prided himself on his work, convinced that he was the best baker to ever live, and he probably wasn’t too far wrong. Everything he made was excellent and very decorative. Everyone wanted his cakes and cookies. Continue reading

A Short History of Christmas for New Yorkers


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Albany children singings hymns to St. Nicholas on the Eve of the Feast of St. NicholasThe tale of St. Nicholas is an old fable from mid-Europe that was popular in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. St. Nicholas was the patron saint of children, merchants and sailors and the patron saint of Amsterdam and was brought by the Dutch to the new world, which for the Dutch was Nieuw Nederlandt (New Netherland). Many of the American traditions on Santa Claus originated in the Dutch settlement of New Netherland along the Hudson River between New Amsterdam (New York City) and Oranje (Beverwyck-Albany). The other colonies were English.

The image of Santa, with his round belly and long white beard leaving presents for children in shoes left by the door and stockings hung by the fireplace, was the image of Dutch St. Nicholas. The tradition that Santa was dressed all in fur with high boots, smoked a long-stemmed Dutch pipe and rode in a sleigh with reindeer certainly never originated in either England or America. Continue reading

Feast of St. Nicholas: An Albany History


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Early Santa (Sint Nikkolas) with a long stemmed Dutch pipe.  In 1628, Dutch Dominie Jonas Michaelius organized a religious body called the Collegiate Church in New Amsterdam (New York City). Services were held in a large room over the grain mill.

In the Spring of 1633, Dominie Edwardus Bogardus succeeded Michaelius and built a plain wooden church on the banks of the East River at 33 Pearl Street. In 1642, under Director General Kieft, the Collegiate Church built a new stone church at 4 Bowling Green which was named St. Nicholas Church, which is said to be the oldest Protestant Church in America.

By the mid-1600s, an active open-air market operated daily in good weather all along Oranje’s (Beverwyck-Albany) one main intersection where Jonkers (State Street) met Handelaers (Market Street and later Broadway) Street. In the middle of the intersection was the Dutch Church, the center of the village both physically and socially. Several hundred inhabitants, mostly Dutch, were huddled in small dwellings surrounding the church. Fort Orange was located just south of Jonkers and a ferry took people across the Hudson to the eastern section of Rensselaerwyck. Continue reading

Columbia Co: Gallery of Wreaths Exhibit, Auction


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christmas wreathHoliday Wreaths created by community members, organizations, local businesses and artists will be on display at the James Vanderpoel ‘House of History’ in Kinderhook Friday to Sunday, December 1-3 from noon to 4 pm, marking the 32nd Annual Gallery of Wreaths and Silent Auction to benefit the Columbia County Historical Society (CCHS), hosted by the CCHS Volunteers.

The Silent Auction helps support exhibitions and programs for county children and adults. In addition to participating in a Holiday Raffle, the public is invited to bid on live, dried, artificial and mixed-media wreaths all weekend. Continue reading

Knox’s Headquarters Christmas Event Set


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1754 John Ellison house, Knox’s Headquarters, viewed from the 18th century bridge over Silver StreamOn Saturday, December 9th from 5 to 8 pm the 1754 Ellison house at Knox’s Headquarters will be open and decorated for Christmas and staffed by Revolutionary War era costumed interpreters

For two Christmases, John and Catherine Ellison shared their home with the officers and soldiers of the Continental Army. Over the winter of 1780-81, General Henry Knox, his wife Lucy and their children Henry and Lucy were there, while two years later it was General Horatio Gates and his military family of aides de camp who shared in the season’s festivities. Continue reading

Christmas at Knox’s Headquarters December 10th


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john ellison houseTour the 1754 house of John and Catherine Ellison from 5 to 8 pm on Saturday December 10th, decorated for Christmas and staffed by Revolutionary War era costumed interpreters.

For two Christmases, John and Catherine Ellison shared their home with the officers and soldiers of the Continental Army. Over the winter of 1780-81, General Henry Knox, his wife Lucy and their children Henry and Lucy were there, while two years later it was General Horatio Gates and his military family of aides de camp who shared in the season’s festivities. Continue reading

How The McEntees Spent Christmas


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McEntee- Christmas in the Catskills,1867“I went out after a Christmas tree and some laurel, through seas of mud,” wrote Jervis McEntee on Christmas eve, 1881, “to the place where I always go on the cross road between the Flat-bush and Pine bush roads. It rained a part of the time and turned into a snow storm on our return.”

Another year, McEntee’s usual places for a tree were so wet that he settled for a small hemlock on the side of the hill where he lived. It was a hill that offered a panoramic view of the entire village as well as the Rondout Creek and the Hudson River. His father James, an engineer who had helped build the nearby Delaware and Hudson Canal, had built the first house on the hill and the family still lived there. Continue reading

First Christmas Card On Exhibit In Albany


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First Christmas Card in HistoryThis Christmas season the Albany Institute of History & Art will be exhibiting America’s first commercially printed Christmas card. Printed in Albany around 1850, the card is on loan to the Albany Institute from the Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections in England as part of The Capital Region in 50 Objects exhibition. This is the only known copy of the card to survive and this is the first time the card has been on view in the United States. Continue reading