It's Christmas Spirit Week here at Debbie's Book Bag! I've done a few Christmas posts about the history and legends of some of our Christmas traditions. Wrote a few Christmas book reviews and even put up a paper snowflake demo.
For today I want to focus on the legends that surround one of Christmas' most famous characters: Santa Claus!
Whether it's Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, or Father Christmas children all over the world know about him. Where he lives, what he does for a living, what he looks like, what kind of clothes he wears and even his mode of transportation. But where did all this information come from?
There are variations of Santa Claus in almost every culture. The Christian Era Santa Claus is based on Bishop Nicholas of Smyrna who was rich man who was very generous and loving with the children where he lived. He would toss presents in the windows of the poor children of the town.
The Orthodox church eventually made St. Nicholas a miracle-worker. It was in his honor that the great church and cathedral in Russia was given his name. The Roman Catholic church honors him as the patron saint of children and seafarers. In Germany St. Nicholas is known as der Weinachtsmann and in England he is Father Christmas. St. Nicholas made his way to the United States with the Dutch immigrants who called him Santa Claus.
It was in North America that Santa Claus took on the form we generally know him as. Through illustrations and poetry. Twas' The Night Before Christmas, the beloved poem by Clement Clarke Moore depicted Santa Claus as the jolly, round man we know and even named the reindeer who drove his sleigh. Robert May and advertising writer invented Rodolph, the ninth reindeer as a publicity stunt for the Montgomery Ward catalog in 1939.
Santa Claus is a part of growing up for many children whether he is called St. Nick or Father Christmas, children leave him cookies and milk, write him letters at the North Pole and wait faithfully to see what he will bring on Christmas Day....
How does your family explain Santa Claus? Do you have special traditions that surround him? Do you still believe?