you think you know about Santa Clause?
| Santa Clause has been a legend in this word for a long time. Every Christmas kids line up by the thousands to get a glimpse of a bearded fat man in a red suit, whose belly shakes when he laughs and they tell them what they want as gifts from him. |
Traditionally, he asks them if they have been a good boy or girl. They normally say yes, but most parents might tend to disagree at times with that assessment from their child, but honestly say nothing, as who wants to dash a child's hopes and fear? Right?
But who knows the history behind that fat man? I honestly didn't, I'm not gonna lie about it, at least I didn't until I researched it. its a pretty nice story, of course, it has a happy ending, but you probably expected it to have one, didn't you?
Well since no one really knows the history behind Santa Clause, I figured I would write about it. So let's go, shall we? Go where? Turkey, actually.
See the year is about 280 A.D., in a small town called Patara, which was a town near a town called Myra, yes in modern day Turkey. It lies near the Aegean Sea, at that time, this town was actually greek.
The legends can be traced back there to a monk named, you guessed it, Nicholas. Well, the town is greek, at this time and I can assume so is he. Nicholas was known far and wide for his kindness and piety. But he, actually his family, was rich.
Well, his notoriety actually stemmed mostly from a time when he had met a family who was very impoverished, so much so that they were gonna have to sell their daughters into slavery or prostitution, due to the fact that the if parents had no money for a dowry, so they could marry them off.
So according to the legend, and most of the information I found. This monk, Nicholas, however, I have read where Nicholas stood up and stuck to his Christian principles. Now he was not fat, nor really jolly either, and really I don't blame him for being that. After all getting locked up in Roman jails was enough to do that to you. Why was he in Roman jails?
Apparently, he had a reputation for being a wiry, fiery defender of the churches doctrine during the persecution of 303A.D. Which actually was a time when Christian priests were told to renounce the church and bibles were burned or basically face the executioner.
Now Nicholas defied the Roman Emporer Constantine and actually spent many years in prison for his insolence regarding these rules, which I might add actually came to an end about 313 A.D. With the Edict of Milan.
So Nicholas helped out the family in his town, by simply dropping a bag of gold, for the first girl down the chimney , and the gold fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry, as was the custom of the day, which provided the dowry for this girl, allowing her to be married.
The same thing happened for the second girl. She too was able to be married to this mysterious gift.
The father, who wanted to know who was doing this, and giving them this mysterious gift, hid by the fire each night until he found Nicholas dropping a bag of gold down the chimney. Once the father approached him, Nichols begged him to tell anybody about it as he didn't want any attention drawn to him about this gift.
According to the legend, the father honored the request and kept his name out of it. However, once word got out that they were given this great gift. The common thought was that it had come from Nicholas.
According to the stories, it was because of this gift, that he was given a Sainthood over small children.
I have also come across a story that related to sailors going through a storm on their boat. Apparently, this storm was great and threatened to destroy this boat. So the sailors prayed to Saint Nicholas. Who then materialized on the boat and ordered the sea to be calm. And like magic, it obeyed him. The sailors were then able to bring the ship into port safely.
It is very little after that account I came across. The date of his death was really not proven, but rumors say it was around December 6 in 345 or 352 A.D. However it was known that his bones were stolen by Italian merchant sailors and brought to the port of Bari, which still has a church named after him, and actually on December 6 every year the sailors carry a statue from that cathedral to the sea, this is called St. Nicholas feast day. According to the legends St. Nicholas blesses the water for the sailors to give them safe travels all year.
His feast day was considered to be a lucky day for big purchases, or even to get married. And by the Renaissance period, he was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of the saints was strongly discouraged by most of the religious people, St. Nicholas was still revered by many throughout Europe, Most especially in Holland. In this country, he is called Sinterklaas or sint-Nicolaas.
Other names he goes by is De sint(“the saint”), De Geode sint(“The good Saint”). Although there are other names for him, the Santa Clause we know in America is based in the name Sinterklaas, from Holland.
In Holland, he is depicted as an elderly man with a white hair and a long, full beard. He usually wears a long red cape, or “Chasuble” over a traditional bishop white alb, and sometimes a red “stoma”. He will put on a red miter and a ruby ring, as well as a gold-colored “crosier”, which is sheppard's pole with a curved top.
In Holland, he rides a white horse, in the Netherlands the horse is called “Amerigo”, or Slecht weer Vandaag(meaning “bad weather today”) or Mooi weer Vandaag (meaning “good weather today”). And with him Sinterklaas carries a big red book with all the children's names in it, and whether or not the child was good or not during the year.
In America, Santa clause is helped by elves, where in Holland he is helped by “Zwarte Piet” which means “Black Pete”, which are his helpers who wear black faces and colorful clothing, instead of elves. The Zwarte Piet appeared in print for the first time in 1850, however, it is said that this tradition dated back as far as the Early 19th century.
The colorful clothing of the Zwarte Piet was based on 16th-century noble clothing, with a ruff and feathered cap. Sinterklaas is supposed to be carrying a bag of candy for the children along with him, this is supposed to refer back to him and the three young girls that spoke of Earlier.
It seems that Sinterklaas, was a bit absent-minded and the Zwarte Piet, came from an unintelligent group to helpers for him.
In this day and age, it is understandable that some would call the Zwarte Piet racist, however in Holland, 90% of people and children in Holland don't think so, and those same people are adamantly opposed to changing their look, as they are part of their heritage.
Sinterklaas made his first appearance in America in December 1773 and again the very next year when a new york newspaper reporter wrote a story about the Dutch families celebrating his death.
In 1804 John Pintard distributed woodcuts of St Nicholas at the New York Historical society's annual meeting, which had the familiar background of Santa clause with stockings filled with toys hung over a fireplace.
In 1809, the writer Washington Irving wrote about him and referred to him as the Patron saint of New York in his book, “ The History of New York”. His appearance, however, did have a tendency to change from a “rascal” wearing a blue tricorner hat and a red waistcoat and yellow stockings to a man wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a huge pair of Flemming trunk hose.
The Santa clause we know, and the gift-giving mainly to children, didn't really start in America till about the mid-19th century. Many stores started advertising Christmas shopping somewhere around 1820, and around the 1840s newspapers were creating separate Christmas sections for holiday advertising, which had featured the revamped Santa Clause. In 1841, in Philadelphia, a shop was displaying a life-sized model of the newly renovated Santa Clause. And of course, it wouldn't be too long before others picked up on this and had live visits with jolly old saint nick.
In the Late 1800s, The Salvation Army, needing to raise more money for their free Christmas meals they provide, dressed people in the familiar red and white suits and began to ring bells on street corners, much the same way they do today.
The more popular version of Santa clause most probably came from a poem written in 1822 by an Episcopal minister for his three girls. The title of this poem was “ An account of a visit from St. Nicholas”, which he at first didn't want to be published due to the subject Itself. Remarkably this poem does describe his magical ability to go up and down chimneys by magic by a simple nod of his head. This was the first time Santa clause was shown to be a portly individual, in a red suit.
It was this poem that first showed he would go from house to house in a tiny sleigh pulled by 8 flying reindeer while leaving gifts for children. It was also this poem that instantly created an American icon that we know today.
In 1881, Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist first drew Santa Clause for Harper's weekly using the more popular picture of Santa we have today. A rotund, cheerful old man with a white full beard with a magic sack filled with toys for children. It is, however, Nast that gave him the familiar red suit trimmed with white fur, the north pole, elves building toys, and a wife Mrs. Clause.
While all this is true, the American Santa Clause was not the only one traveling around giving children gifts, thee are similar figures around the world doing the same thing. There's christkind or Kris Kringle who delivered presents to well behaved swiss and German children. In Scandinavia, there is a jolly elf named “Jultomten”, and he delivered gifts in a sleigh pulled by goats. There is Father Christmas in England and Pere Noel in France.
Surprisingly in Russia, there is a woman called “Babouschka” who it is said gave the wrong directions to the Three Wisemen so they could not find the baby Jesus, but later felt remorse for it but could not find them to make good on her mistake. She leaves gifts by the children's bedside hoping that one of them is the baby Jesus and she could be forgiven.
A similar story exists in Italy where a kindly old witch called La Befana, who rides her broomstick down the chimneys to leave gifts for good children there.
Believe it or not, the ninth reindeer, called Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, was the creation of a Robert L. May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward department store. Believe it or not, Rudolph is over 100 years old. In 1939 May wrote a poem about Rudolph and him being picked on because of his red glowing nose. And this idea became popular mainly because he guided Santa Klause on a really stormy night, which made it easier for him to see where he was going to deliver presents. Montgomery Ward made a lot of money in 1939 on the sale of the story, and it was reissued in 1946 where it did very well in that year as well. The popular song about Rudolph didn't come out for several years later after it was written by one of May's friends, Johnny Marks, it sold several million copies and has gone around the world several times, and has even been made into a television movie played each and every Christmas, while it is being watched by millions of children each and every year.
But a surprising fact most people don't know is that the reindeer pulling the sleigh are actually, and have to be female. No one seems to know this fact. However, according to experts, male Reindeer lose their horns in late November r Early December, While the females keep theirs till the end of winter. So when you see the reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve you know two things. One, that the whole team, yes including the ninth reindeer, Rudolph, are females. The 2, most importantly, they are on time and are going the right direction, because our guys don't stop and ask for directions. Everyone knows that, don't they?