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Christmas With Love

Santa Claus

Santa Claus – History & Legend

Santa Claus has a long history steeped in Christmas traditions.

The name Santa Claus evolved from a Dutch name, Sinter Klaas. Otherwise known as Saint Nicholas or Kris Kringle. Santa Claus is commonly known in the United Kingdom as Father Christmas.

Where did Santa Claus originate from?

In the 3rd Century Saint Nicholas became the patron Saint of Children. Santa was born about 280 A.D in what is now Turkey.

Saint Nicholas [gettyimages]

Saint Nicholas was born into wealth, and as Legend states gave away all his worldly possessions to traveling the countryside, helping the poor and sick. Over time his popularity spread and he became known as the protector of Children and Sailors. Saint Nicholas has always been a popular Saint even during the Protestant Reformation, when Saints were discouraged.

Santa in United States Of America

The First Time Santa Claus was mentioned in the USA was in 1773 a Newspaper in New York reported of Dutch families gathering to celebrate the Saint. Later, in 1804 John Pintard Head of the Historical Society distributed woodcuts at the society’s annual meeting. The American image of Santa comes from an 1809 Publication by Washington Irving called, “The History Of New York.”

In 1820 stores started advertising Holiday deals and Santa Claus’ image appeared in advertising. Stores began using Santa appearances and photos as means to attract children and parents into their shops. The Salvation Army needing to raise funds for their free Christmas Meals started dressing up homeless men as Santa and placing them in the streets to collect donations. These familiar Santa’s have been in the United States ever since.

Perhaps the Santa’s people are most familiar with in America are the Television and Advertising Santa’s.

Santa Claus – Coca Cola advert

Coca Cola and Santa have been synonymous for decades. While Macy’s Thanksgiving Parades have had the Jolly man in every parade since 1924.

Did you know that there is an official North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Santa Claus tracker?

Santa Claus in France

La Père Noël

According to French Tradition children leave their shoes with carrots and treats by the fireplace for his donkey. Père Noël takes the donations left by the children and if they have been good or bad leaves presents in the place of the donations. This replaces the Westernized view of stockings. Santa’s reindeer did not appear until 1880 when “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Was published in a New York magazine.

Before the Second World War many French regions had their own vision of a white bearded man, who protected and rewarded good children. The red suit that is universally known was not adopted until after the war, commonly before Santa wore green, white tan and even brown. Looking more like a monk or bishop than the jolly round bellied man today.

Due to the fact many French children do not drink Milk: Wine, alcoholic cider, coffee or juice is left for Santa. With cookies, a mandarin, spiced bread or chocolate is left as an additional treat.

In France today, the jolly old man is loved so much that he has his own department in the French Post Office. The position Secretary Of Father Christmas, was created in 1962 in Paris. All letters are sent to South West France where each is answered with a post card-by law.

60 secretaries handle the correspondence and the number of letters continue to increase with as many as 1.4 million letters and emails per year. (Talk about a lot of replies!!)

Santa Claus in Italy

San Nicolò di Bari and Befana

San Nicolo is the same Saint Nicholas as is told in other stories. But because Italy is the final resting place of him, Italians tend to celebrate him more than Santa Claus. One story told in Italy is that San Nicolo heard of a man who was quite poor. His three daughters did not have enough for a dowry to be married. This was quite a bad thing during this time, so after hearing this Nicolo for three nights threw bags of money down the chimney for the poor man. The gold landed in shoes that were near the fireplace. After this the mystery of San Nicolo spread and any mysterious gifts were attributed to him.

Befana is said to be an old woman and many refer to her as a witch, who visits all the children in Italy on the eve of the Epiphany, celebrated on January 6. She fills the children’s stockings full of either candy or coal, depending on their behavior the year before. Sound familiar so far? In some poor parts of Italy, the children receive a stick in their stocking instead of coal if they’ve been naughty. Befana is portrayed as a hooded old hag, similar to the type of witches we see during Halloween, covered in soot (she enters homes through the chimney) and rides a broom. She carries a bag full of candy and is said to be the best house keeper in all the land due to her habit of sweeping the houses of the children she visits before she leaves.

The children are told that she will give them a swift thump from her broomstick if they try to see her when she arrives, but the tradition could just be to keep kids in their beds. To be gracious and thankful hosts, families leave her a glass of wine and a bit of their traditional local food to refuel her for the rest of her journey. So, Santa gets fat and jolly from all the sweets families leave for him and Befana drunkenly rides her broom from house to house leaving candy.

The Most popular legend is that in looking for Jesus the 3 wise men stumbled upon the home of Befana. She had such a neat home and was so kind that they asked her to accompany them. Here is where the story changes; One variation says she told them she had far too much housework, and couldn’t go. But later had a change of heart since they had already left, she was left to look for them by herself. Along the way she left candy and goodies for the good children. Onions and Garlic bulbs for the bad ones. Befana continues to look even though she hasn’t found Baby Jesus yet, she still leaves treats for the children.