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Sat Dec 23, 2017, 09:05 AM

FSogol's Advent Calendar Day 23: The Origin of Santa Claus

The origin of Santa Claus starts in 4th Century Turkey with St Nicholas. The Greek Christian was Bishop of Myra (Bishopsí robes are red.) He was known for doing good deeds and was charitable, especially to children. His miracle was saving a pair of children from a butcher although some versions credit his with bringing the pair back from the dead. He died on December 6, 346 AD and was named a saint. In 1807, his remains were moved to a basilica in Bari, Italy. He is depicted with a flowing white beard and red robes. In 12th century Russia, a holiday was created for him. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 . His day promoted gift-giving and charity. He is the patron saint of Russia, the patron saint of sailors in Greece, and the patron saint of children and travelers in Belgium.

Saint Nicholas

St Nicholasís tomb in Bari, Italy

After the movement to reform the Catholic church in the 16th and 17th centuries, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but his legend was kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name 'Sint Nikolaas' was eventually transformed to 'Sinterklaas'. In Dutch lore, Sinterklaas arrives on a ship from Spain with his assistant 'Zwarte Piet' ~ meaning Black Pete ~ and Sinterklaas then travels riding a noble white horse, while Black Pete rides a mule. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes, or clogs, by the fireplace filled with carrots and hay for the horse and mule, and Sinterklaas rewarded those who were good by placing small treats in their shoes. In the 17th century, Dutch colonists brought the tradition of Sinterklaas with them to America and here the Anglican name of 'Santa Claus' emerged.

Present day New York City, once called New Amsterdam, was a Dutch trading post during the 17th century and thus had a large Dutch influence during that period and in ensuing years. In 1804, the New York Historical Society was founded in America with St. Nicholas as its patron saint. In 1809, famed American author Washington Irving, a member of the Society, mentioned St. Nicholas in his satirical work A Complete History of New York written under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker. In his revised version of the book which was published in 1812, Irving describes St. Nicholas: "óthe good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children."

Another New Yorker, printer William Gilley, published a poem in 1821 by an unknown author titled A New Year's Present. In this poem, "Santeclaus" is portrayed as the bringer of gifts to good and virtuous children on Christmas Eve, while leaving birchen rods for those who are naughty. Santeclaus soars over chimney tops being driven - for the first time in written accounts - by a reindeer.

Father Christmas from 1684

Clement C. Moore published the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas, in New York's Troy Sentinel on Dec 23, 1823. He published it anonymously. Some scholars say the work was really written by Major Henry Livingston, jr. (Livington was an American with Dutch origins), but I stick with Mooreís account.

Santa illustration from 1864 version of A Night Before Christmas

A No-pants Santa from a 1864 ad

Political cartoonist, Thomas Nast (German immigrant) helped depict the modern American Santa. St. Nicholas and Sintrklaas were both depicted as tall, thin men. Nast drew Santa as jolly and plump with white beard, fur-trimmed coast, and pants with a black belt and boots. He published a Santa drawing in 1862 and then again for the next 24 years. Overall, he did 76 engraving depicting Santa.

Color version of Nastís Santa

The Coca-Cola Company also played a part in creating the look of Santa Claus that is so familiar to many of us today. In an effort to increase their winter sales and their appeal to children, Coca-Cola hired commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create advertisements featuring a happy, smiling Santa either holding, drinking, giving, or receiving Coca Cola. Sundblom turned to the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas for inspiration, and the first Coca-Cola Santa debuted in 1931 in The Saturday Evening Post. From 1931 to 1964, the Michigan-born artist drew popular holiday ads featuring Santa Claus with Coke, which appeared not only in the Post, but in other publications including National Geographic, Ladies Home Journal, The New Yorker, as well as in calendars, billboards, posters and even plush dolls.

Sundblomís Santa

Other countries versions of Santa or holiday gift givers:
Father Christmas in England
Pere NoŽl, Father Christmas or the Christ Child in France
La Befana in Italy
The Three Kings in Spain, Puerto Rico, and Mexico
Christkindl or the Christ Child in Switzerland and Austria.

Christkindl (German for Christ Child) was promoted by Martin Luther who felt Santa displaced Christ at Christmas time. Christkindl is depicted as an angelic child with wings and golden curls. Christkindl came to America with German and Swiss immigrants became known as Kris Kringle and morphed back into Santa Claus. (You canít win them all, Mr. Luther.)

The Christkindl

Excellent pictorial source of the origins of Santa:

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Reply FSogol's Advent Calendar Day 23: The Origin of Santa Claus (Original post)
FSogol Dec 2017 OP
left-of-center2012 Dec 2017 #1
FSogol Dec 2017 #2
left-of-center2012 Dec 2017 #3
FSogol Dec 2017 #4

Response to FSogol (Original post)

Sat Dec 23, 2017, 12:42 PM

1. Turkish Archaeologists Think They May Have Discovered The Grave Of 'Santa Claus'

Archaeologists in Turkey think they may have reason to rewrite Christian history. Saint Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus, is believed to have been born in the Demre district in Antalya, and new research at a church that bears his name there has uncovered a tomb that could house his undisturbed remains.

On Wednesday, Cemil Karabayram, the head of Antalya's Monument Authority, told the Daily Sabah that his team has searched through historical records relating to the St. Nicholas Church in Demre and found reason to believe that the conventional story about what happened to the remains of Saint Nicholas could be wrong.

The saint is believed to have been buried at the church before it was damaged in an earthquake. According to one account, Italian merchants stole his bones from a damaged sarcophagus (pictured above) during the first crusade in 1087 and brought them home where they have been stored at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari, Italy ever since.

Each year, on December 6th, the clergy collects a clear liquid that seeps from the tomb that is believed to have miraculous powers. Some believe that the liquid is seeping in from outside the tomb, which is below sea level. But if people really are collecting some nasty liquid from a dead guy's bones, it might be the wrong dead guy.

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Response to left-of-center2012 (Reply #1)

Sat Dec 23, 2017, 03:48 PM

2. If he died in 346, even his bones are little more than dust. n/t

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Response to FSogol (Reply #2)

Sat Dec 23, 2017, 04:03 PM

3. Oldest human bones date back 300,000 years

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Response to left-of-center2012 (Reply #3)

Sat Dec 23, 2017, 05:25 PM

4. True, but those bones laid undisturbed until archeologists

Found them. St Nicholasís bones were messed with by people looking for artifacts, magical properties, and souvenirs. He was exhumed a couple of times and his bones took a sea voyage. Probably not much left.

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