Wacky Wednesday - Who is Santa Claus?
The Man Behind the Story of Father Christmas/Santa Claus
St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century, in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey). He was a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it. There are several legends about St. Nicholas, although we don't know if any of them are true!
The most famous story about St. Nicholas tells how the custom of hanging up stockings to put presents in first started! It goes like this:
There was a poor man who had three daughters. The man was so poor that he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn't get married. (A dowry is a sum of money paid to the bridegroom by the bride's parents on the wedding day. This still happens in some countries, even today.) One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house (this meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married). The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping in a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.
Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint. St. Nicholas is not only the saint of children but also of sailors! One story tells of him helping some sailors that were caught in a bad storm off the coast of Turkey. The storm was raging around them and all the men were terrified that their ship would sink beneath the giant waves. They prayed to St. Nicholas to help them. Suddenly, he was standing on the deck before them. He ordered the sea to be calm, the storm died away, and they were able to sail their ship safely to port.
St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Diocletian but he was released in the time of the later Emperor Constantine, who was a Christian. St Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 (where things about Christianity were discussed).
No one is really knows when St Nicholas died, it was on 6th December in either 343 (which seems to be the most probable), 345 or 352. In 1087, his bones were stolen from Turkey by some Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari. On St. Nicholas feast day (6th December), the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathedral out to sea, so that he can bless the waters and so give them safe voyages throughout the year.
in 1066, before he set sail to England, William the Conqueror prayed to St. Nicholas asking that his conquest would go well.
How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus
In the 16th Century in northern Europe, after the reformation, the stories and traditions about St. Nicholas became unpopular.
But someone had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, so in the UK, particularly in England, he became 'St Christmas', 'Father Christmas' or 'Old Man Christmas', an old character from story plays during the middle ages in the UK and parts of northern Europe. In France, he was then known as 'Père Nöel'.
In some countries including parts of Austria and Germany, the present giver became the 'Christkind' a golden-haired baby, with wings, who symbolizes the new born baby Jesus.
In the early USA his name was 'Kris Kringle' (from the Christkind). Later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas with them and Kris Kringle and St Nicholas became 'Sinterklaas' or as we now say 'Santa Claus'!
Many countries, especially ones in Europe, celebrate St. Nicholas' Day on 6th December. In The Netherlands and some other European Countries, children leave clogs or shoes out on the 5th December (St. Nicholas Eve) to be filled with presents. They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas's horse, they will be left some sweets.
St. Nicholas became popular again in the 1800s era when writers, poets and artists rediscovered the old stories.
In 1821 an anonymous poem called 'Old Santeclaus with Much Delight' was published in New York. It was the first time that Santa/St Nicholas was described in a sleigh being pulled by a reindeer. The poem was published with eight illustrations in a book called 'The Children's Friend: A New-Year's Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve' and it's the earliest images of 'Santa Claus' rather than St Nicholas or Sinterklaas.
In 1823 the famous poem 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' or 'T'was the Night before Christmas', was published. Dr Clement Clarke Moore later claimed that he had written it for his children. (Some scholars now believe that it was actually written by Henry Livingston, Jr., who was a distant relative of Dr Moore's wife.) In the poem, St. Nicholas is described "He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf" and as coming with "a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer". This was the first time we found out the names of the reindeer.
#naturalhomebrands #santaclaus #kriskingle #fatherchristmas #perenoel #Christkind #sinterklass #wackywednesday
- Carole Zellers