My NYC's Santa Claus tour was covered in the New York Times
photo by Sharon LowenheimHere is the text of the article
about my Santa the NYC Tour:
Santa's a New Yorker, You Got a Problem With That?
By Corey Kilgannon (c) The New York Times
If a guy on Broadway in wraparound shades and a Santa hat insisted to you that Santa is really a New Yorker, you might slip him a buck and make a quick escape to your office party.
But on Tuesday, this man, Jared Goldstein, 49, was surrounded by 10 people who had shown up to take a walking tour he runs every December called “Santa Claus: The N.Y.C. Tour,” which makes this very claim.
Mr. Goldstein was beginning the tour at what he called Santa’s birthplace in New York City. So he met the group in front of a Duane Reade drugstore on Broadway near Rector Street in downtown Manhattan.
“We’re all here because we love the jolly man,” Mr. Goldstein said.
Mr. Goldstein is Jewish and did not grow up celebrating Christmas. After deciding that the rich history of Santa in New York was being unforgivably ignored, he began the tours in 2010, which he called the 200th anniversary of Santa’s birthday.
This was Dec. 6, 1810, when the first dinner of the St. Nicholas Society was held in the Macomb Mansion on lower Broadway, he said. A tall office building now stands there, at 39 Broadway, with a Duane Reade on the ground floor.
Mr. Goldstein, who usually runs his Santa tours by appointment, had made this one a public tour. He said he was accepting donations as payment, in the spirit of Santa. He held out a Christmas stocking and asked his tour followers for “cookies for Santa.”
Mr. Goldstein, whose Santa hat was embroidered with an image of the Brooklyn Bridge, passed out some fake reindeer antlers for tour-goers to wear.
He pointed out a plaque about the Macomb Mansion next to the entrance to the Duane Reade and led the group into the store to see “the shrine,” which turned out to be a display rack of packaged Santa hats and costumes near the checkout counter.
Mr. Goldstein said the last time he led a group in the store, they were kicked out because “they were not expecting the ‘shrine to Santa Claus’” tour.
This time too, staff members and customers stared as the group gathered around the “shrine” rack.
“We’re in the birthplace of Santa Claus,” said Mr. Goldstein, who estimated that 95 percent of our current version of Santa originated in New York City.
The legend of Sinterklaas was brought over by Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam colony in the 1600s, he said, and the figure was developed over centuries, partly by commercial interests, media portrayals and New Yorkers adopting the St. Nicholas figure to help rein in a once-raucous holiday and make it into a celebration characterized by domestic tranquillity.
The modern image of Santa as the jolly, plump, pipe-smoking fellow was fleshed out by popular photos and written tributes, including Washington Irving’s 1809 account of the history of old New York, said Mr. Goldstein, who lives in the East Village.
He grew up in Old Westbury, on Long Island, and graduated from Columbia University before working at an array of jobs and doing community organizing. He began leading tours 11 years ago.
He led the group on Tuesday across Broadway and scolded an aggressive livery cabdriver: “Hey, we’re walking here!”
The group stopped into Federal Hall on Wall Street, which replaced the old Federal Hall where John Pintard founded the New-York Historical Society.
Mr. Pintard, Mr. Goldstein said, was upset by the rowdy and boozy celebrations held around Christmas by farm hands indulging in caroling sessions. Seeking a calming figure, Mr. Pintard proposed St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York City.
Then Mr. Goldstein led the group to St. Peter’s Church, not far from 1 World Trade Center, and stopped into the antechamber to discuss the 1806 Christmas Riots, set off by a gang attacking Irish Catholic worshipers leaving the church after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
“Do you mind if we warm up here?” Mr. Goldstein asked the Rev. Donald Fussner, a priest from the church who had approached the group.
“You can do anything you like,” Father Fussner said cheerily. “This is America.”
The group proceeded to City Hall Park, where Mr. Goldstein pointed out buildings along what was once known as Newspaper Row to prompt a discussion of the publication of Santa-related material, such as images by the illustrators Thomas Nast and Norman Rockwell, and Clement Clarke Moore’s famous “A Visit From St. Nicholas” poem.
Mr. Goldstein led the group to Broadway and Chambers Street to view the building once occupied by The New York Sun newspaper, which published the celebrated editorial that said, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
"So New York has given Santa Claus to America, and hardly anybody knows it,” said Mr. Goldstein, who noted that families have always chosen to celebrate Christmas and Santa in their own way. “And maybe it should stay that way.”
Name Jared Goldstein
Who he is A guide who leads tours making the case that Santa Claus is really a New Yorker.
Where he’s from The East Village
Telling detail He likes to start his Santa tours in front of a building in Lower Manhattan where the St. Nicholas Society held its first dinner.