The Three Gifts: The Truth about Santa Claus
Here’s what Santa Claus looks like in 13 countries around the world
Nicholas entered an inn whose keeper had just murdered three boys and pickled their dismembered bodies in basement barrels. The bishop not only sensed the crime, but resurrected the victims as well. For several hundred years, circa to , St. Nicholas was the unchallenged bringer of gifts and the toast of celebrations centered around his feast day, December 6.
The strict saint took on some aspects of earlier European deities, like the Roman Saturn or the Norse Odin, who appeared as white-bearded men and had magical powers like flight. He also ensured that kids toed the line by saying their prayers and practicing good behavior. But after the Protestant Reformation began in the s, saints like Nicholas fell out of favor across much of northern Europe. Bowler said that, in many cases, that job fell to baby Jesus, and the date was moved to Christmas rather than December 6.
Some of these scary Germanic figures again were based on Nicholas, no longer as a saint but as a threatening sidekick like Ru-klaus Rough Nicholas , Aschenklas Ashy Nicholas , and Pelznickel Furry Nicholas. These figures expected good behavior or forced children to suffer consequences like whippings or kidnappings.
Dissimilar as they seem to the jolly man in red, these colorful characters would later figure in the development of Santa himself. Related: "Who Is Krampus?
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Explaining the Horrific Christmas Devil. In the Netherlands, kids and families simply refused to give up St. Nicholas as a gift bringer. They brought Sinterklaas with them to New World colonies, where the legends of the shaggy and scary Germanic gift bringers also endured. But in early America Christmas wasn't much like the modern holiday.
The holiday was shunned in New England, and elsewhere it had become a bit like the pagan Saturnalia that once occupied its place on the calendar. And there was no particular, magical gift bringer. Then, during the early decades of the 19th century, all that changed thanks to a series of poets and writers who strove to make Christmas a family celebration—by reviving and remaking St. Find out how Old Saint Nick became a beloved figure all over the world, and how his image has changed over the years.
The evolution of Santa Claus and other Christmas traditions
Washington Irving's book Knickerbocker's History of New York first portrayed a pipe-smoking Nicholas soaring over the rooftops in a flying wagon, delivering presents to good girls and boys and switches to bad ones. In an anonymous illustrated poem entitled "The Children's Friend" went much further in shaping the modern Santa and associating him with Christmas.
Nicholas, stripped him of any religious characteristics, and dressed this Santa in the furs of those shaggy Germanic gift bringers. That figure brought gifts to good girls and boys, but he also sported a birch rod, the poem noted, that "directs a Parent's hand to use when virtue's path his sons refuse. Nicholas ," better known today as "The Night Before Christmas," for his six children, with no intention of adding to the fledgling Santa Claus phenomenon. It was published anonymously the next year, and to this day the plump, jolly Santa described therein rides a sleigh driven by eight familiar reindeer.
But familiar as the poem is, it still leaves much to the imagination, and the 19th century saw Santa appear in different-colored clothing, in sizes from miniature to massive, and in a variety of different guises. It wasn't until the late 19th century, he added, that the image of Santa became standardized as a full-size adult, dressed in red with white fur trim, venturing out from the North Pole in a reindeer-driven sleigh and keeping an eye on children's behavior. The jolly, chubby, grandfatherly face of this Santa was largely created by Thomas Nast , the great political cartoonist in an era that featured many.
Though he undoubtedly means well, Santa has certainly stirred up, and continues to create, more than his fair share of controversy. Attempts to displace Christmas in Russia were ultimately unsuccessful, as were Soviet attempts to spread a secular version of Grandfather Frost, complete with blue coat to avoid Santa confusion, across Europe. Santa remains a politicized figure around the world. American troops spread their version of the jolly man around the world in the years immediately following World War II, and he was generally welcomed, Bowler said, as a symbol of American generosity in rebuilding war-ravaged lands.
Nowadays, however, people in many nations have Santa on their own naughty list, either because he represents the secular side of Christmas at the expense of the religious. Sometimes Santa is rejected because he's not a local. Such efforts seem unlikely to stop a growing interest in Santa Claus, but their organizers may save him a few stops on his busy Christmas Eve schedule. Read Caption. Santa Claus wasn't always "chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. From St. 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. 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 dreadful 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.
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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. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian.
No one is really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either or In , 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.
Nicholas asking that his conquest would go well. You can find out lots about about St Nicholas at the St. Nicholas Center. 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 'Father Christmas' or 'Old Man Christmas', an old character from stories plays during the middle ages in the UK and parts of northern Europe.
In some countries including parts of Austria and Germany , present giver became the 'Christkind' a golden-haired baby, with wings, who symbolizes the new born baby Jesus. Many countries, especially ones in Europe, celebrate St. Nicholas' Day on 6th December. 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. Nicholas became popular again in the Victorian era when writers, poets and artists rediscovered the old stories.
United Kingdom — Father Christmas
In 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. The poem describes St. Nicholas with eight reindeer and gives them their names. They became really well known in the song 'Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer', written in Do you know all eight names? Click on Rudolph's nose to find out!
Did you know that Rudolph and Santa's other reindeers might well be all girls!? Only female reindeer keep their antlers throughout winter. By Christmas time most males have discarded their antlers and are saving their energy ready to grow a new pair in the spring. Some people say that Santa lives at the North Pole.
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In Finland, they say that he lives in the north part of their country called Lapland.