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Christmas cannibals (Part 2)

One of the miracles attributed to Saint Nick is the resurrection of three children before they could be turned into Christmas hams.

Saint Nick
Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Merry Christmas! ’tis the season to keep talking about cannibalism. Saint Nicholas of Myra, the original Santa Claus, is associated with many miracles: calming a storm at sea, multiplying wheat during a famine, and raising the dead (posthumously). He’s the patron saint of sailors, merchants, prostitutes, pawnbrokers, students, brewers, and children – and that last one comes from a popular Medieval legend.

In a time of famine, a desperate butcher decides that cannibalism is the best way forward. He lures three children into his house, kills them, stuffs them in a barrel, and covers them in salt in order to cure them. Er, that’s “cure” as in “cured ham,” not “cure” as in “heal.” But along comes Saint Nick, and decides that he likes the second meaning of the word more. He makes the sign of the cross over the barrel. The three children miraculously spring back to life.

Now, this alleged miracle does not appear in the oldest legends of Saint Nicholas – there’s no mention of it in the Golden Legend, for example. But it was popular enough to appear quite frequently in stained glass windows throughout France and the Netherlands. Anywhere you see a bearded man, three naked children, and a barrel – that’s Saint Nick.

GFreihalter, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What is it about Christmas and cannibalism? As my friend David pointed out to me, any religion that includes transubstantiation is at the very least cannibalism-adjacent.

Categories: Art Arts & recreation Europe Places Religion & belief

The Generalist

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.

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