In the following article Candice Smith, a Hopatcong Resident, Author of two books on the Holidays and one of Santa’s hardest working helpers walks us through legend of Saint Nicholas (Santa).
From her book: The Man Behind the Beard
With Christmas Season well underway in 2019, it’s interesting to think about Santa Claus. We all have a working understanding of the man, but many have no idea his history. It is a vast, storied, long, and complicated one, but it’s also a fascinating, trans-continental, and feel-good one. The story begins over 1700 years ago!
Born in Asia-Minor in 280 A.D., Nicholas was a baby welcomed by his parents. His life ultimately became dedicated to God and the Church. Throughout his life, Nicholas was given credit for many acts of extreme kindness, charity, and even events that were called miracles leading to his being recognized as a saint.
His legend crossed political borders, oceans, and cultures. For generation after generation, from country to country, the stories continued to morph, grow, and evolve about Saint Nicholas.
The Dutch cultivated a legend of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and that legend, when brought to the New World, became Santa Claus.
Santa Claus in America’s hands found a warm and welcoming home. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, savvy businessmen understood the marketability of the jolly man who brought gifts. He was the star of stories, movies, department store toy departments, and advertisements in print and on television.
In 1931, in Newark, NJ, a son was born to Italian immigrants. Pasquale Ficcio was raised with copious amounts of food and love. As a young boy he enjoyed seeing the Bamberger’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Newark from atop his father’s shoulders. His favorite part was seeing Santa Claus at the end of the parade. Pasquale - Pat - was close with his grandmother and uncles with whom he lived and endured the Depression as well as World War II.
In 1948 Pat was a young man of 17 in high school in Newark. The school was putting on a Christmas Show. The cast called for one Santa Claus and a slew of elves. Because of his “natural padding”, Pat donned the Santa Claus suit. It was a momentous time in his life.
There were a few years in Pat’s life as a young man that he was not Santa Claus consistently, including a stint in the U. S. Army that saw him stationed in Germany and visiting his father’s village in Italy. But once he returned to the States, Pat found reasons year after year to put on a Santa suit and become the man known for kindness, godliness, and charity.
Like Pat, we can be Santa every year among our family, friends, and neighbors. Pat may wear the suit - and his story is extraordinary spanning over seven decades - but anyone can be inspired by and motivated to be Santa.
For more about Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, and Pat Ficcio, the man who has been Santa Claus for over seventy years, and how to be inspired to be Santa, order a copy of The Man Behind the Beard by Pat Ficcio and Candice Smith. This entertaining, informative, and feelgood book delves deeper into who Saint Nicholas was, the mythology that surrounds him, his evolution into Santa Claus, and how Pat Ficcio became The Man Behind the Beard.
Pat Ficcio is a resident of Mount Arlington and has been the local Santa Claus at The Windlass, on the Miss Lotta, at Davy’s Hot Dogs, and in his residence for all his neighbors’ grandchildren. He published his first book in 2019 at 88 years old – The Man Behind the Beard.
Candice Smith is a Hopatcong resident, Board of Education trustee, and author of Christmas Candi: A Guide to Year-round Holiday Bliss and The Man Behind the Beard. She’s also one of Santa’s hardest working helpers!
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