With just one sleep left until Christmas I thought I should write about the most important thing about Christmas: Santa!
People know him as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Santa Claus or just Santa, but whichever way you say it, he’s the same… Well, at least in the UK and America. This modern version of him came from the Dutch Sinterklaas, who may have come from the historical person known as Saint Nicholas! In my primary school, we listened to this story about him, but I have kind of forgotten it… Oops. Anyway, a very similar story of a gift-giving person comes from Greek and Byzantine (a more modern version of the Roman Empire, but in the time around the Middle Ages: it finally ended in 1461, so Wikipedia says. Isn’t it weird to think the last EVER part of the Roman Empire was eliminated hundreds and hundreds of years after it started? OK, it doesn’t sound too impressive but the Empire started in the BC years so it’s pretty awesome. With Constantinople as the capital, they mostly spoke Greek rather than Latin. Just a little history lesson for me and you, and to be honest, I’m quite interested now… hehe) folklore, but he is instead called Basil of Caesarea. His ‘feast day’ in on January 1st, and that is when people in Greece do the gift giving and unwrapping!
The Santa we know and love is wearing red, but did you know that was NOT his original colour? If you did, you probably thought that Coca Cola made him red for an advertising campaign (because their colours are red and white), right? Well, you’re wrong. This version, as I learned from History club, was created by a cartoonist called Thomas Nast in 1863, where a picture of a red Santa appears in a magazine. Coca Cola just used it, and it became wildly popular and the green Santa went down… I saw a picture of the green version and it’s REALLY cool, and I kind of prefer it. He looks like an old elf.
Earlier, I told you Santa may have come from Saint Nicholas. So you can make up your own mind, here’s a bit of information about him: He was a 4th century Greek bishop, and a devout, I mean VERY DEVOUT, Christian guy. He gave very generous gifts to poor people and this made him famous. He is pictured as a bearded man in robes (you see? He’s beginning to look like Santa, with the beard…).
Another previously mentioned version of Santa is Sinterklaas. He is often called ‘The Good Saint’, and long ago, people celebrated his day on December 5th (wow, that’s early), but in the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestants started celebrating the day of ‘Christkindl’, and the date changed to Christmas Eve. The tradition states that Sinterklaas comes from Spain in a steam boat during November and takes notes on the kinds that have been good or bad. Then, after this, he rides around on a white or grey horse and give gifts to good children and his followers (like elves) carry bags with canes in for the bad children. I think they get whipped. How festive.
Unlike Santa, Sinterklaas is pictured as an old, serious man wearing quite religious-sounding clothes: a long red cape, a bishop’s hat and other things (I have no idea what they are). He carries a kind of shepherd’s staff with a fancy curly top (called a crosier).
Back in England, the first documents of Santa come from the 17th century. He is trying to spread the good cheer of Christmas and was known, thanks to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, sometimes, as ‘The Ghost of Christmas Present’, who, in the book, shows Scrooge around London on Christmas Day and sprinkles ‘the essence of Christmas’ onto the happy people!
In 1821, a book was published for kids and it included the poem ‘Old Santeclaus’, which describes an old man on a sleigh pulled by reindeer (sound familiar?). This made other people write about the version of Santa we know today. The other ‘attributes’ of Santa, like him living in the North Pole and having a wife (Mrs Claus) came about in the late 1800s. But still, people didn’t have the full picture completely fixed. It was only until the 1900s when the book ‘The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus’ was published and Santa’s whole person became VERY popular and the thing we know today.
You know I was talking about Coca Cola using a red Santa? Well, this only happened many years after Thomas Nast drew it. They used it in the 1930s, but they weren’t the first. 15 years earlier, a different company were using a red Santa to promote their mineral water and, in 1923, their ginger ale. But this isn’t the first use of him. At the very beginning of the century, a red Santa appeared on the cover of ‘Puck’ magazine.
I’m sure you knew this, but let’s go back in time to 17th century England where the Puritans banned Christmas. Yes, they banned Christmas. They thought it was a pagan or Roman Catholic tradition (two religions they didn’t like). But when the monarchy came back (with the party-loving Charles II), the Puritans still didn’t like Christmas and didn’t celebrate it for a further TWO centuries! Even in 1958, a man in Denmark called Santa a ‘pagan goblin’, which, as you can imagine, stirred up a lot of controversy.
There have been a lot of websites trying to track Santa, and one I like most is NORAD Tracks Santa. Go on in the evening/night and you can see Santa go across the world. It’s pretty cool… 😛
To finish off, here’s an interesing quote from an unknown author:
There are three stages of a man’s life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus.
For the final time, I hope you learned something. Credits to Wikipedia!
Your Santaish blogger, Jaz