The traditional character known as "Santa Claus" is also known to many as
"Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" who lives in the imaginations of children each
However, most people may not know that there was a real Saint Nicholas.
The Santa Claus familiar to us today bears little resemblance to the
original Saint Nicholas -- a man who lived 1,700 years ago in Myra, a city
in modern-day Turkey.
Serving as a bishop in the early Christian church, his generosity was
As one story goes, a man with three daughters fell on hard times. He didn't
have enough money for a dowry for any of his daughters, so they couldn't
marry. Legend has it that Nicholas secretly visited the family at night,
dropping a bag of gold through the window.
There are many other stories of the generosity of Saint Nicholas -
particularly to children.
"Jolly Old St. Nicholas" is a Christmas song. Its authorship is often
credited to Wilf Carter. However, since the song is mentioned in earlier
works (such as Susan Gregg's Christmas Orphans, pub. 1916), this attribution
is unlikely. The song has also been credited to Benjamin Hanby, author of
"Up on the House Top", at some point in the 1860s, although this too may be
in dispute.. The song is traditionally performed to an up-tempo
arrangement of Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major".
Benjamin R. Hanby? - c. 1860s/ Johann Pachelbel - 1680: This piece was
Hanby's second alleged contribution to the Christmas canon after Up on the
House Top, so it's only fitting that it be coupled to a musical canon, in
this case the most famous of those which is more ubiquitous now than ever,
Pachelbel's Canon in D Major. It has become particularly popular since its
use in the 1980 film Ordinary People and George Winston's famous reading on
his December album. Hanby is suspected of having written this ditty during
his short life, as its appearance in print occurs nearly the same time as Up
on the House Top, and the overall content is nearly the same. There is
little need to change the chord progressions to make the two fit together.
To add a homey parlor sound to it on my CD rendition, I accompanied the
piano with my slightly noisy and wheezy 1883 Monarch pump reed organ. We'll
have to make due with MIDI reed organ here, but the effect should nearly be
the same without so much of the effort.