Would the Real Santa Please Stand Up?

It is hard to know where the legend of Santa Clause began, each country has their own name and view of how Santa is portrayed. However, one legend goes back further to 280 AD with a Christian monk named Nicholas.

Born into a rich family in Patara, Nicholas gave away his money and possessions to help those less fortunate than himself. His generosity, kindness and popularity grew. So, two hundred years after his death, a church was built in his honour in Constantinople (now Istanbul) by the Romans. He was proclaimed Saint Nicholas and 6 December, being the date of his death, was declared his feast day. This day is also said to be lucky day for marriage or making a significant purchase.

The gift giving grew from Saint Nicholas’ legacy and spread throughout the world.

The Dutch continued the celebration but named him Sinter Klass symbolised with wooden cut outs which define modern day images of Santa seen today.

In Germany, an angel Christkind (AKA Christ Child) accompanied St. Nicholas as he distributed gifts to good children in Switzerland and Germany. Christ Kind was small like an elf with blonde hair, wings and carried a tiny tree upon entry of each house. At this point, there was no chimney diving, instead entry was through an open window. Upon departure, Christkind would ring a bell perhaps to let the parents know it was safe to close the window.

It is thought that the name Kris Kringle originated through the mis-pronounciation of Christkind.

The English, however, did encourage chimney diving with Father Christmas visiting on Christmas Eve to leave gifts for children who had been good. The tradition of parents leaving milk, cookies, mince pies to help Father Christmas sustain his energy. Sometimes brandy was also left out to combat the white winter chill.

While the English used stockings, the French used shoes where Pere Noel would leave gifts for good children on Christmas Day. However, if the children were bad they would receive a visit from Pere Fouettard. In northern France they continue to celebrate St Nicholas Eve which is 6 December.

In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, wrote the poem “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” which became “Twas the Night Before Christmas,”. This was soon followed by cartoonists portraying Santa as the character we know today. The red suit, pot belly and snow white beard were followed closely by giving Santa a sleigh, reindeer, Mrs Claus and elves to live in the North Pole.

Xmas Bell Holly

Pictures courtesy of Google Clip Art Gallery


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