Where Did the Name Kris Kringle Originate?

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Experts do not agree on the origin of the name Kris Kringle. Some believe it is a mispronunciation of Christkind, German for Christ Child. Others feel it originates with the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of Belsnickle.

Christkind originates with Martin Luther. A part of Luther's breaking away from Catholicism included the elimination of the Saints. To provide children with a tradition similar to St. Nicholas, Luther introduced Chirstkind, an angelic spirit who presented German and Swiss children with presents. Those who follow this tradition see Kris Kringle as a rendition of Christkind.

Belsnickle is a mythical being who visits children. He is responsible for traditions of giving gifts to children who behave appropriately, but giving coal or switches to children who misbehave. In the Dutch tradition, shoes are the container for the gifts, while the Germans prefer stockings or shoes.

In the passing of time and merging of traditions from many different cultures in the United States, such names have joined in the character of Santa Claus, especially with the publication of Clement Clark Moore's 1822 poem "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," responsible for his laugh, ability to fly up a chimney and sleigh, along with the cartoons of Thomas Nash from 1881, depicting Santa with a round belly, white beard and the red and white suit.