Thursday, December 22, 2011

The History of Santa Claus - departure from business

In keeping with the seasonal spirit, we decided to visit the history of Santa Claus. Enjoy.

 The early origin of Santa Claus is believed to began in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, which was an area located in present day Turkey. St. Nicholas was a generous man, especially devoted to children. His parents died when he was a young man, leaving him quite wealthy.  He decided to devote his wealth to charitable causes. His reputation for secret gift giving, such as placing coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him was well established. After his death in approximately 340 A.D. he was interred in a cathedral and the people spoke of his deeds and kindnesses. Myra was taken over by the Greeks and there began a great competition for St Nicholas' remains and relics. In 1087, the Italian religious leaders of Bari, Italy took control and moved all of St Nicholas' remains to a specially built cathedral in Bari where the Pope was present for the enshrining.  His legend spread, increasing St. Nicholas' popularity throughout Europe and Africa..

St Nicholas' reputation for kindness and generosity was also enhanced with claims that he could perform miracles. Devotions were performed in his honor. St. Nicholas was not only a patron saint in Italy but curiously his greatest popularity was in Russia where he also became the patron saint of the nation, where he was depicted with a red cape, flowing white beard, and a bishop's mitre. He was the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, travellers, children and students and those in need in various countries in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Greece, Romania as well as Western Europe, Amsterdam and north. Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him.

History shows that some time around the 12th century, an official church holiday was created in his honor. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated on December 6th and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity.

After the Reformation, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but the legend was kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name, Saint Nikolaas, was used  transforming his name 
to Sinterklaas. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace, and Sinterklaas would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes. Dutch colonists brought brought this tradition with them to America in the 17th century and here the Anglican name of Santa Claus emerged.

In 1822, Clement C. Moore composed the poem - "A Visit From Saint Nicholas", published as "The Night Before Christmas", as a gift for his children. In it, he portrays Santa Claus:

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Many countries feature a variety of gift bearers for the Christmas or Advent season: ~ The Three Kings in Spain, Puerto Rico, and Mexico ~ Christkindl or the Christ Child in Switzerland and Austria ~ Father Christmas in England ~ and Pere Noël, Father Christmas or the Christ Child in France. Still, the figure of Santa Claus as a jolly, benevolent, plump man in a red suit described in Moore's poem is held in high regard and is recognized by children and adults around the world.
The themes of kindness, generosity and love are universal,  no matter who bears the message - may St Nicholas leave these gifts at your home during the holiday season..From our family to yours - Toni Ryan and the staff at Qlixite