Saint Nick and the barrel boys, a real pickle of a (Christmas) story
December 7, 2019 2:42 PM   Subscribe

It's that time of year when people celebrate Saint Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6 (Wikipedia). If you're looking through images of his saintly actions, you will likely see him depicted with three men, often young, in a barrel or tub (WTF Art History). This was a particularly popular medieval legend (Google books preview), as seen in this ornate carving (Met Museum). More modern interpretations have expanded Nicholas' domain to include brewers, based on these images, but in fact, he is resurrecting pickled boys (Beliefnet).

That particular version of the story is only one of a handful of versions, as noted by Charlotte Riggle, who traces changes in the story, which is also recounted in Saint Nicolas, a cantata with music by Benjamin Britten (YouTube; Wikipedia). It is also a popular French Christmas carol, La Légende de Saint Nicolas, which can be seen here as an animated video with French and English subtitles.

It's also possible that this story is the origin of the American Christmas Pickle (Wikipedia).
posted by filthy light thief (9 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
More modern interpretations have expanded Nicholas' domain to include brewers, based on these images, but in fact, he is resurrecting pickled boys (Beliefnet).

We ought to get back to the true meaning of Christmas, which involves necromancy.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:51 PM on December 7, 2019 [8 favorites]


The true meaning of Christmas? The St. Nicholas Center would like a word: Rescuing Saint Nicholas from Santa Claus -- “Santa Claus is becoming too popular and it is the Americanization of our society that people are afraid of,” said Wim Kunst, Assen, the Netherlands.
In some places—the Netherlands and Belgium— the goal is simply to delay Santa and everything Christmas until after St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas) is finished on December 6. In others—Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic—the intent is to completely avoid the Weihnachtsmann/, the Christmas Man or Santa in favor of the traditional gift-givers, Sankt Nikolaus for St. Nicholas Day and Christkind who comes at Christmas.
And it's not necromancy, it's just one of hundreds of stories of resurrections by saints (Miracles of the Saints). Nothing magical here.

[And I realize I included a Christmas reference in the OP title, to further complicate things.]
posted by filthy light thief at 3:04 PM on December 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


That carving is the most beautiful thing. And a proper display piece, in that the artist wasn't much bothered with the bits the congregation couldn't see.
posted by glasseyes at 3:09 PM on December 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Love the Britten.
posted by Segundus at 3:33 PM on December 7, 2019


ew
posted by mwhybark at 5:14 PM on December 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


although given the unassailable theology of Osiris Claus, who, like the Grinch, is ineluctably green skinned, Pickle Surprise does seem like a jolly holiday notion
posted by mwhybark at 5:16 PM on December 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Pickle Nick?
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:46 AM on December 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


just one of hundreds of stories of resurrections by saints ... Nothing magical here

Umm...
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:20 AM on December 8, 2019


For certain definitions of magic.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:18 AM on December 8, 2019


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