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Santa Claus 
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Kenny

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What does Santa Claus have to do with Christmas? I thought the Christmas had to do with the Nativity story. When was younger my parents also told me Santa Claus was real but I'm pretty gullible. Where did Santa originated from?
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Last edited by beebiya on Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:37 am, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Jul 01, 2011 11:33 am
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Burning Godzilla
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Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas and Sinterklaas, merged with the British character Father Christmas to create the character known to Britons and Americans as Santa Claus.

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Fri Jul 01, 2011 2:03 pm
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It's a long, complicated story, involving the intertwining of numerous religious and folkloric traditions, both Christian and pagan, over the course of some two thousand years.

In the first place, there's no very good reason to believe that Jesus Christ was actually born on December 25th at all-- or on any other specific date, either. Neither the Gospel According to Matthew nor the Gospel According to Luke (the sole Biblical sources for the Nativity story) say anything about what time of year it was. December 25th was the date of the winter solstice according to the calendar used in the Roman Empire, and many of the faiths practiced within the empire attached some religious significance to it. Most notably, the Egyptian Osiris, the Persian Mithra, and the Roman Sol Invictus (an avatar of the Greek Apollo)-- all of them deities associated in some way with resurrection and renewal-- were considered to have been "born" in some sense on that date. Christianity most likely borrowed the traditional date of Christ's birth from either Mithraism or the Sol Invictus cult, which were its two strongest competitors in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe, practically everybody observed some sort of festival on or about the Winter Solstice. As the shortest day of the year, the Solstice marks the turning point of winter-- the beginning of the climb back up to warm weather and fertility. It was thus an occasion for thanksgiving, typically expressed via feasting and gift-giving. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, Christmas tended to absorb elements of whatever the local midwinter festival was. In Italy and Gaul (what is now France), it looked a lot like the Roman Saturnalia; in northern Europe, it looked a lot like the Germanic Yule.

One commonly recurring theme of the folklore associated with pagan European Solstice festivals is that of a supernatural or quasi-supernatural gift-giving character-- which is perhaps to be expected, considering the importance of gift-giving to most such celebrations. On Yule, for example, elf-like creatures called tomten (who were believed to look after farms and houses after dark, protecting them from evil incursions) were supposed to leave presents for the families they guarded. Other Solstice gift-bringers commonly took the form of grandfatherly old men (giving rise to the Father Christmas traditions of Britain, France, Germany, Spain, and Portugal, and to the Grandfather Frost traditions of Slavic Europe) or little elfen children. Christianity absorbed that tradition, too, in a couple of different ways. Where the gift-bringer was a child, it obviously made sense to reinterpet him as the Baby Jesus. The old man was a bit more challenging, but the rise of Saint-veneration during the Middle Ages provided a mechanism whereby it was possible to Christianize practically any local pagan tradition by associating the relevant character with a Christian saint.

That's where Saint Nicholas of Myrna comes in. He was the bishop for a city in what is now Turkey during the 4th century, and he was famous for his extravagant generosity toward the poor. That made him a natural character to associate with gift-giving, and he became associated with traditional Solistice gift-bringers in the Netherlands, Hungary, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Switzerland, Poland, Slovenia, and the Ukraine. In the Netherlands specifically, he was called Sinterklaas-- "sinter" meaning "saint" and "Klaas" being the Dutch form of Nicholas. The Dutch were among the earliest European colonizers of North America (New York City was originally a Dutch settlement), and over here, Sinterklaas gradually merged with the British version of Father Christmas to become Santa Claus. The transformation was more or less complete by the middle of the 19th century.

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Fri Jul 01, 2011 2:15 pm
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El Santo wrote:
...the Persian Mithra

I read that as "the Persian Mothra", at first, which just made this post all the more amusing.

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Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:01 pm
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The Mud Puppy wrote:
El Santo wrote:
...the Persian Mithra

I read that as "the Persian Mothra", at first, which just made this post all the more amusing.

What about Santa Gamera? He's a friend to all children.

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Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:36 pm
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I heard that in one dutch version he was called "Sant Niklas", and this may have been one of the sources of the name "Santa Claus". Maybe Sant Niklas -> Sinter Klaas -> Santa Claus.

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Fri Jul 01, 2011 4:18 pm
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El Santo wrote:
That's where Saint Nicholas of Myrna comes in. He was the bishop for a city in what is now Turkey during the 4th century, and he was famous for his extravagant generosity toward the poor.

His tomb still stands in modern Kale, Turkey, so you can visit Santa's actual grave!

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Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:35 pm
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MegaLemur wrote:
El Santo wrote:
That's where Saint Nicholas of Myrna comes in. He was the bishop for a city in what is now Turkey during the 4th century, and he was famous for his extravagant generosity toward the poor.

His tomb still stands in modern Kale, Turkey, so you can visit Santa's actual grave!

It's a great place to take the kids!

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Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:38 pm
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Son of Spam wrote:
MegaLemur wrote:
El Santo wrote:
That's where Saint Nicholas of Myrna comes in. He was the bishop for a city in what is now Turkey during the 4th century, and he was famous for his extravagant generosity toward the poor.

His tomb still stands in modern Kale, Turkey, so you can visit Santa's actual grave!

It's a great place to take the kids!

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. And this is where he's buried."

"And on Christmas Eve Santa Clause rises from the grave to deliver toys to all the good boys and girls. The bad boys and girls he drags down to hell."

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Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:52 pm
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Movie Mike wrote:
"And on Christmas Eve Santa Claus rises from the grave to deliver toys to all the good boys and girls. The bad boys and girls he drags down to hell."

I don't know about the rest of you, but this is the version I'm going to tell my kids.

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Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:10 am
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El Santo wrote:
Movie Mike wrote:
"And on Christmas Eve Santa Claus rises from the grave to deliver toys to all the good boys and girls. The bad boys and girls he drags down to hell."

I don't know about the rest of you, but this is the version I'm going to tell my kids.


I rather like the addition of the demonic imp, Krampus, who often joins St. Nicholas (Don't know about the proper spelling here, as it varies with the tradition and language) in his visit to the households. Bad children are beaten with a switch made of ash (I think) or trundled up in a cloth (coal?) bag and hauled away.

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Sun Jul 03, 2011 7:33 pm
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I think Krampus is mostly an Austrian thing, but I may be mistaken about that. In any case, he's terrific. I made Krampus cards to give out at Christmas one year.

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Sun Jul 03, 2011 9:19 pm
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El Santo wrote:
I think Krampus is mostly an Austrian thing, but I may be mistaken about that. In any case, he's terrific. I made Krampus cards to give out at Christmas one year.

Originally Austrian, but it's become extremely popular in Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic as well, with thousands of people attending "Krampus Day" celebrations in early December.

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Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:03 pm
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MegaLemur wrote:
El Santo wrote:
I think Krampus is mostly an Austrian thing, but I may be mistaken about that. In any case, he's terrific. I made Krampus cards to give out at Christmas one year.

Originally Austrian, but it's become extremely popular in Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic as well, with thousands of people attending "Krampus Day" celebrations in early December.

Which makes all the sense in the world, given that Hungary and the Czech Republic were politically united with Austria until the end of World War I in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while the majority-Catholic parts of southern Germany were part of the Austrian sphere of cultural influence until the completion of German unification in 1870.

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Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:30 pm
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Reading up on this Krampus Day celebration, I recall that my German exchange student from two years ago, Iris, talked excitedly about their annual celebration of "Nicholas" on December 6 - she never wrote it, so I merely assume the spelling is the same.
While it happened on December 6, the observance she described was somewhat similar to the tradition of hanging stockings. Only in this case, kids put a shoe outside their bedroom door before going to bed. The next morning, the shoe was filled with various small candies and gifts.

My other exchange student, Lotta from Finland, described a celebration during the Christmas-New Years holiday season that bore a lot of resemblance to our observance of Halloween.

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