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Thu Dec 26, 2013, 11:22 AM

Been doing some reading on Santa Claus. It is actually an extremely interesting topic.

It is interesting and it is so complicated that one can write whole books about it, but here is a short version that covers the main points of what I have learned so far (by all means, correct me if I am wrong about anything):

The modern Santa Claus as he appears in North America is based on a couple of different sources. The most recent is Saint Nikolas, who was the bishop of the city Myra in the 4th century in what was then Greece and what is now Turkey. He was known to have given gifts to poor children. There exists a holiday in his honor in much of Europe which is on the 6th of December. Saint Nicolas comes and gives gifts to well behaved children, and his assistant "Servant Ruprecht" brings wooden rods with which he beats the non-behaved children.

The tradition was carried to the United States by immigrants from Holland. In their language the name of Saint Nicolas is pronounced "Sinterklaas" which became Santa Claus in English. Santa Claus both punishes and rewards, so there isn't an additional figure such as Ruprecht in the USA.

That does not explain why the date is 25th of December though, and it doesn't explain the other features of Santa Claus, such as the reindeers and that he lives on the North Pole. And here is where it gets interesting.

Far before the 4th century, so before there was a Saint Nicolas, there already existed a holiday on the 25th of December, which was called Yuletide and which was dedicated to the Germanic god Odin (father of gods). It was believed that on the 25th of December he lead a procession of spirits which went from house to house and gave gifts to children. He was very powerful and could see everything that people did ("he knows if you've been bad or good". Pictures of him showed him as an old man with a long white beard. It is very likely that this is the reason the date was moved to the 25th. What is funny is that Santa Claus now comes on the 6th of December and on the 25th of December in many parts of Europe. The American Santa is referred to as the "Christmas man", while Saint Nicolas is simply "Nikolaus".

But there is more. Odin rode a horse and not a reindeer. The reindeers and the fact that Santa lives at the North Pole likely have a different origin: In most of Eastern Europe there is an old tradition which says that on New Years Eve a being known as "Father Frost" come and brings gifts. He leads a procession of reindeers and it is likely that the reindeers are based on this tradition. Also, Father Frost is believed to be an embodiment of the Winter. This is likely the origin of the belief that Santa lives at the North Pole.

What is also interesting is that the modern design of Santa Claus with the red fur coat, was influenced by the Coca Cola company who made him a trademark in 1931. Older depictions of Saint Nicolas have a different design (he wears bishops clothes).

In any case, even though the origins of the details of the modern Santa are very complicated, it is clear that for literally thousands of years, in many different places of the world, people in one way or another have believed in a powerful old man which shows up in the deepest winter to bring gifts and have held a celebration in his honor.

And now some pics.

This is father frost:



These are illustrations of Saint Nicolas /Sinterclaas:





Here is Odin:



Here is modern Santa:

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Reply Been doing some reading on Santa Claus. It is actually an extremely interesting topic. (Original post)
redgreenandblue Dec 2013 OP
antiquie Dec 2013 #1
redgreenandblue Dec 2013 #2
antiquie Dec 2013 #4
redgreenandblue Dec 2013 #6
antiquie Dec 2013 #7
panader0 Dec 2013 #3
awoke_in_2003 Dec 2013 #11
ananda Dec 2013 #5
dixiegrrrrl Dec 2013 #8
redgreenandblue Dec 2013 #9
intheflow Dec 2013 #10
Matariki Dec 2013 #12
etherealtruth Dec 2013 #13
nadinbrzezinski Dec 2013 #14
Myrina Dec 2013 #15
redgreenandblue Dec 2013 #17
justiceischeap Dec 2013 #16
redgreenandblue Dec 2013 #18
redgreenandblue Dec 2015 #19

Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 11:26 AM

1. Interesting, thank you, now

 

could you please explain the three-men-in-a-tub with Sinter Claes?

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Response to antiquie (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 11:28 AM

2. I have no idea. lol.

I'm guessing he is blessing children or something.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Reply #2)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 11:41 AM

4. And now the anecdote of three-men-in-a-tub with Sinter Claes...

 

I was being lazy.

Soon after, Nicholas moved to Myra and was appointed bishop. Attendance lists identify him as number 151 of the 300 bishops at the council of Nicaea, the world's first ecumenical council. In one well-documented incident, Nicholas saved three innocent soldiers from beheading on the orders of a judge. In a dream, he told Emperor Constantine to spare some other innocents.

But it was generosity that made his name. Any day could be Christmas Day for the bishop of Myra. When famine loomed, he forced captains of wheat ships bound for Alexandria each to leave behind 100 hogsheads of corn and then magically replenished their stocks. He squeezed a huge tax cut from the emperor.

On his travels, he saved drowning sailors, rescued a kidnapped boy and brought back from the dead a cheating debtor run over by a chariot. But one final miracle sealed his reputation. Visiting an innkeeper who had murdered, sliced and pickled three infant boys in a tub of pork, Nicholas made the sign of the cross. Out jumped the boys, healthy and pink
.

http://www.theguardian.com/g2/story/0,,414584,00.html

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Response to antiquie (Reply #4)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 12:13 PM

6. He was one hell of a miracle worker then.

Given the powers which the myth assumes he had, he is almost too powerful for a simple saint.

In a way it is strange that Santa Claus would play such a prominent role in the mainly protestant United States. The myths surrounding Santa Claus would place him almost on equal footing with the christian god.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Reply #6)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 12:30 PM

7. Jesus Claes?

 

(apologies, going to hide in the lounge now)

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 11:35 AM

3. Odin looks like my bass player.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #3)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 01:33 PM

11. Well..

 

bass players do tend to be odd ducks

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 11:50 AM

5. Hmm...

I guess the spirits led by Odin turned into Santa's elves, and the horses
became reindeer since Santa was moved to the North Pole.

What I suspect is true is that children love the tradition no matter how
it's expressed.

I really enjoyed watching the I Love Lucy Christmas Special yesterday,
where Little Ricky asks mommy and daddy how Santa gets down the
chimney with no stairs. Lucy say, he just uses the north pole to slide
down like a fireman.

That was funny.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 12:41 PM

8. What a neat post!

Thank you for that information, and for the pics.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #8)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 01:13 PM

9. You're very welcome!

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 01:20 PM

10. Coca Cola didn't popularize Santa wearing red.

Thomas Nast was the first to clothe Santa in a red suit in the late 1800s. Norman Rockwell painted Santa in red in 1921. By the time Coke got around to their popular ad campaign, most people were already associating Santa with wearing red.

Thomas Nast picture:


Rockwell's Santa:


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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 02:43 PM

12. Odin rides an eight legged horse in fact

so perhaps there's a connection there with eight reindeer?

Great post, btw!

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 02:47 PM

13. Pretty cool

Thank you for putting this together!

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 02:49 PM

14. I was going to add something about the Mexico of my youth

 

But better not.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 02:50 PM

15. Don't forget the 'shrooms ...


http://www.livescience.com/25731-magic-mushrooms-santa-claus.html


Sinter Claes looks disturbingly like a Pope, right down to the red Ferragamo loafers.

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Response to Myrina (Reply #15)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 05:46 PM

17. lol...

I guess it is possible to associate pretty much any myth with hallucinogenics

Oh, and it is no surprise that Sinter looks like a pope, since he was a bishop

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 26, 2013, 02:55 PM

16. Since Odin comes from Norse mythology (if I recall correctly)

I'm guessing this has something to do with the church taking "pagan" practices and christianizing them to lull people from paganism and into christianity.

Also, the three babes in the tube? The real St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children.

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Response to justiceischeap (Reply #16)

Fri Dec 27, 2013, 08:57 AM

18. The American Santa seems oddly out of place in Christianity if one thinks about it.

At least in a way. Based on the features ascribed to him (omniscience, near omnipotence on Christmas Eve which is the celebration of the birth of Jesus in the Christian context) he is simply to powerful to be a simply saint. Furthermore, protestants don't even believe in saints. I think in the Christian context it only makes sense to interpret Santa Claus as a manifestation of "god the father".

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Fri Dec 18, 2015, 07:39 AM

19. Kicking, since Christmas season is once again here.

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