Date: Sat, 13 Dec 1997 23:06:44 EST


Subject: Kriss Kringle

I've been going through the Public Ledger of Philadelphia, which was

perhaps The New York Times of early 19th century America. I could probably do

a faster job on "Kriss Kringle" by checking December of each year, but I've

been going through the whole year, looking for "Canucks" and other items. The

Public Ledger nicely reprinted the best items from New York and Boston


"Kriss Kringle" means "Christ Child." OED's earliest citation is for

"Christ-kindle" in the ANNALS OF PHILADELPHIA for 1830. The next citation is

in the late 1840s.

CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA: A HISTORY (Oxford University Press, 1995) by Penne

L. Restad states on pages 50-51: "..._Kriss Kringle's Book_, in 1842, and

_Kriss Kringle's Christmas Tree: a holliday present for boys and girls_, in


THE BATTLE FOR CHRISTMAS (Random House, 1996) by Stephen Nissenbaum

states on page 126, "In 1842, a Philadelphia publisher brought out _Kriss

Kringle's Book_, a gift book for children that explained the ritual of St.

Nicholas..." On page 127: "In 1845 two other Philadelphia publishers entered

the Kriss Kringle market. One came out with _Kriss Kringle's Christmas

Tree_...the other publisher producted a book called _Kriss Kringle's Raree

Show, for Good Boys and Girls_..."

It stands to reason, from these two highly scholarly books, that _Kriss

Kringle's Book_ was published in 1842. Only an absolute idiot would even

bother to check.

This is from the Public Ledger of Philadelphia, 8 December 1841, pg. 2,

col. 5:

KRISS KINKLE'S BOOK.--A handsome volume, and one well adapted for a

Christmas present for the young, has just been published by Cowperthwaite &

Co., called "St. Nicholas; or, Kriss Kinkle's Book for all Good Boys and

Girls." It consists of a series of entertaining tales, illustrated with a

number of wood cuts, and an excellent likeness upon the cover of the veritable

Nicholas himself, regaling himself with a pipe. Young masters and misses

would be pleased with its contents.

This is from the Public Ledger, 25 December 1841, pg. 1, col. 3:

"KRISS KRINGLE'S BOOK."--Messrs Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co. have published

a book with the above title, which is an admirable thing in its way, and which

I would certainly have purchased as a holiday present for my little folks, but

for the abominable name they have given it. I have a lingering affection for

the superstitions of my boyish days, and I have no doubt there are many more

in like case in Pennsylvania, who will groan in spirit with me over the

misnomer of our old friend, whose annual visit was looked forward to be the

great event of the season. The publishers have done him still deeper wrong in

confounding him with St. Nicholas. "Kriss Kringle," say they, "is a name

given by children to St. Nicholas." This may do very well for New Yorkers,

who, coming from Holland, have lost half the good things they inherited from

their German ancestors, especially those that smack of poetry. (Everybody's

gotta take a swipe at New York--ed.) We have two Christmas heroes, Peltz-

Nichol and Krist-Kinkel, according to popular pronunciation. The former is a

jolly old fellow, well wrapped in furs, who cuts all manner of antics, and

whose name is assumed by the chief of the holiday mummers, if those funny

variets still "go about," levying their black mail of cider and minced pies.

He is identical with St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, and holds sway from the 6th

of December to Christmas day, pinching and playing kicks on the bad children

and promising the good ones that Krist-Kinkel will bring them presents when he

comes. This latter name is a corruption of _Christ-Kindlein_, the infant

Savior. He is never mischievous, and fills the stockings of good children to

the brim with toys and sweetmeats. The bad ones he hands over to Peltz-

Nichol, who slily slips into their stocking a hickory switch, a quid of

tobacco, or, at best, a handful of _appel schnitts_. He derives his name from

the fur or _Peltz_ with which he keeps his old body warm in his aerial rides

through the bitter December nights. Honor to the hearty old cock! May he or

his "counterfeit presentment" never knock at the door of a Pennsylvania

farmer, without meeting a cordial welcome and his mug of molled order (mulled

enter?-ed.), by the genial glow of a blazing gum back-log. May our children,

too, be preserved from the blessings of education by steam, which would shut

up the doors of their little wonder-land, and long continue to think that the

gentle Christ-Kindlein hovers over their innocent joys, to approve and

encourage them in well doing, so that they may follow freely and gladly in the

footsteps of "the young child, Jesus."