Episode 009: Peter G. Rose, Delicious December: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents, and Treats

Delicious December

“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house/ Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;/ The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,/ In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

Undoubtedly, you have heard, or read, this first stanza of Clement Moore’s famous “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (1822), but have you ever wondered about the traditions and saint contained within its lines?

Where did the Christmas traditions of stockings, presents, and cookies come from?

And what about jolly, old Saint Nicholas? Who was he and why do we often call him Santa Claus?

Peter G. Rose, culinary historian of Dutch foodways in North America and author of Delicious December: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents, and Treats joins us to discuss the origins of Santa Claus in the United States.


About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Peter RoseIn this episode we explore the origins of Santa Claus and the important contributions seventeenth-century Dutch colonists made to North American culinary traditions with Peter G. Rose, author of Delicious December: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents, and Treats.

Peter takes us on an exploration through American culinary history and the festive traditions of Christmas and Santa Claus. She reveals which “American” foods have Dutch origins, why the Dutch have long celebrated St. Nicholas’ Day, and how Dutch St. Nicholas Day traditions evolved into the present-day American traditions of Christmas and Santa Claus.


What You’ll Discover

◦ How Peter became interested in the influence of Dutch culinary traditions in North America
◦ How cooking assisted her translation of the influential 17th-century Dutch cookbook De Verstandige Kock or The Sensible Cook
◦ What “American” foods have Dutch origins
◦ Why we should save our grandparents’ cookbooks and what they can tell us about our history
◦ How the North American environment influenced Dutch colonial cooking
◦ How Native American peoples, especially the Mohawks, influenced Dutch colonial cooking
◦ How the Dutch influenced Native American culinary traditions
◦ Who St. Nicholas was and what miracles he performed
◦ Why and how the Dutch in the Netherlands celebrated St. Nicholas
◦ What St. Nicholas Day traditions made their way to North America during the 17th century
◦ How and when the Dutch Sinterklaas became the American Santa Claus


Links to People, Places, and Publications

Peter G. Rose
Historic Hudson Valley
The New Netherland Institute
• The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old and the New World
• Delicious December: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents, and Treats


Time InfinityTime Warp Question

How might the Dutch have continued to influence North American foodways and culture if the Dutch had not returned New York to the English in 1674?


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