Christmas is a festive season which celebrates the Birth of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated with lots of interesting features and traditions. Amongst them are exchanging Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, decorating home with different Christmas Decorations like Christmas ornaments, preparing Christmas recipes and Christmas treats, arranging Christmas hampers and Christmas gift baskets, Dressing up your Christmas Trees and sending season’s greetings to loved ones. And one of the most popular feature is the Santa Claus.
There is a controversy about the origin and the reality of the figure we call Santa Claus today. There is a possibility that some of the details in his life story are merely borrowed from those of pagan gods. According to some experts, the legends of Saint Nicholas are reminiscent of myths ascribed to gods such as Poseidon in Greek mythology, Neptune in Roman, and Hold Nickar in Teutonic mythology.But there are some real life connections too which we have shared below:
Saint Nicholas and Christmas
It is believed the origin of the modern Santa Clause can be traced to a monk named St. Nicholas who lived during the third century in the Village of Patara which today falls near the Southern coast of Turkey. He was born into a wealthy household and was taught the ways of Christianity . He was raised as a devout Christian. When he was still young, Nicholas lost his parents in an epidemic. He inherited a large fortune and wealth and decided to use it to help the poor and needy. He became famous for his good deeds and for helping the needy. He was later made the Bishop of Myra who became famous for his love for children, his concern for sailors and ships and his charity.
He was known for his love for children and for gifting them with toys and sweets if they performed well. Incidentally today’s Santa Clause also presents good and well-mannered kids with presents and punishes the unruly ones by leaving behind lumps of coal.
There are many legends about Saint Nicholas. It is said that when he was a baby, he was nursed only on Wednesdays and Fridays and he fasted on other days. Nicholas was noted to be very fond of children and he rewarded them with gifts if they do well in their catechism lessons. Once he saw a sailor fall off a ship and he came to the rescue walking over the water and brought him back to the ship.
Tales about Santa Claus
The most popular tale attributed to him was about a poor family whose three daughters are about to be forced into prostitution. Nicholas was overcome with pity and he set out to help them by sneaking into their house at night, throwing in bags of gold on the window for the two girls. For the third daughter, he crept up the chimney to drop in another bag of gold and incidentally, the girl had left a stocking to dry by the fireplace and the bag of gold landed on it. From this story, the association of Santa Claus with chimneys and stockings originated.
The character of Santa Claus eventually evolved from legends of Saint Nicholas. It was in America that this transformation took place. The Dutch settlers in New York spoke of a certain “Sinterklass”, which was adopted by the English speakers as “Santa Claus”. The image of Santa Claus as a fat man originated from a tale created by Washington Irving. In this tale, he described Santa as a chubby man smoking from a pipe and riding a magic horse in the air above the houses in New York.
Santa Claus Today
The Santa Claus that we know today is a combination of legends and tales that come from various cultures that eventually united as these cultures met. In 1821 , A book came out named as ‘A New Year’s Present, to the little ones from five to twelve’ in which an anonymous poem was included which depicted an old man on a sleigh driven by reindeer, and who was bringing presents for kids. In 1823, Clement Clark Moore wrote his poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” which depicted Santa Claus in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. This poem together with the cartoons created by Thomas Nast resulted into the modern American Santa Claus with a white beard and rosy cheeks. It represented Santa landing on the rooftop, using the chimney to enter the house with a bag full of toys. In the poem St. Nicholas is described as a chubby and plump, a right little jolly elf. He is described as having a round little belly which would shake when he laughed. In 1863 Thomas Nast, an American Cartoonist gave a much modern impression for Santa Clause .
In 1902 a Children’s book named The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause, by L. Frank Baum helped Santa Claus to become even more popular. He was th one who gave the true for to the modern santa. In his writings he said Santa lived in the laughing valley of Hohaho, owned ten reindeer who were unable to fly but leapt in enormous bounds. He also gave the immortality to santa and also assigned the one goal of Santa to give a happy childhood to the immortals of the world.
Santa Claus further became a popular Christmas figure when an eight year old girl, Virginia O’ Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun to ask if Santa Claus truly exists. The editor replied “Yes Virgina, there is a Santa Claus”, which made Santa live forever in the hearts of children all over the world.
Santa Claus has since ben depicted as a benevolent and charitable person who adores children and rewards the good children. Even today, many volunteers dress up as santa to collect funds for charity and for needy families during the holiday season. Many 20th Century ads showed Santa creating his own toys . the popular song from 1956 , sung by George Melachrino first created the image of ‘Mrs. Santa Clause’ and in the book ‘How Mrs. Santa Clause Saved Christmas’ by Phyllis McGinley helped define the role of Mrs. Santa Clause. The Government of Canada, through Canada’s Minister of Citizenship awarded Canadaian Citizenship to Santa Clause on 23rd Dec in 2008.
Today, in the modernized socity Santa Clause is depicted as having a fully mechanized production unit for his large requirement of toys. Today, santa is one of the few cultural icons in the Western world who is a sign of peace, love, celebrates giving and caring. Today, Santa Clause is depicted as a jolly happy old man with white beard and hair wearing red coat and trousers, carrying a rather large bag filled with gifts.
Children leave their stockings out on the chimney for Santa Clause to leave presents for them . It is also quite popular for kids to leave a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa . In Britain and Australia kids leave minced pie and sherry or beer for Santa. Kids in Sweden and Norway leave rice porridge for Santa. Kids from Ireland leave Guinness or milk and christmas pudding or minced pies for Santa. Kids also leave a carrot for the reindeer .
Santa has become an important part of the Holiday season and celebrations. He is loved by the millions of kids worldwide who love him and wait for their present all year-long.