Saturday, December 14, 2013

Searching for the Real Santa

Megyn Kelly (one of the FOXNews strippers) started a mini-firestorm when she declared that Santa Claus is real and white. Which begs the question, who is this Santa Claus person, anyway?

Santa Claus is an Anglicization of the dutch word Sinterklass, or Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of Holland. His companion servants are not elves but Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) who spy on children and report back to their boss about whether they are bad or good. Sinterklaas has a flying horse, not reindeer, and passes out chocolate letters to good children. This is remarkably similar to the old Norse god Odin and he is pictured looking like Odin.

Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas of Myra was a tiny, five foot tall, olive complexioned Greek from what is now southern Turkey.  The historic Nicholas was just another 4th century bishop, lots of them ended up being sanctified, who was known for being annoyingly pious. His one known accomplishment was being one of the 300 bishops to attend the First Council of Nicaea. Legend give him more credit. He is said to have resurrected three small children murdered by a butcher. His gift giving legend comes from a story where Nick threw bags of gold down a chimney into a home so a father would not have to sell his three young daughters into prostitution. Nick is the patron saint of children, sailors, and (yes, Megyn) broadcasters.

Father Christmas
By the 17th century the notion of a generous, jolly, bearded old guy personifying Christmas had migrated from Holland to England. This was a time when there was a genuine war of Christmas. The Royalists were decidedly pro-Christmas while the Puritans were anti-Christmas - Christmas was seen as a fun holiday and Puritans considered anything fun to be pure evil. Celebrating Christmas became an act of rebellion against the rule of Oliver Cromwell who had officially banned Christmas. Father Christmas is supposed to live in northern Finland, hence the reindeer now added to the legend.

Kris Kringle
From the German Christkindl, Christ child, somehow converted into an Odin-like old man because, damned if I know.

In the winter Odin and his son Thor disguised themselves as Jolnir and Longbeard to go hunting during the Winter Soltice. Odin mounted his flying horse while Thor drove a flying wagon pulled by goats. Centuries later Christians tried to reconcile these exciting stories with the birth of the Christ child by adding in an obscure Greek bishop and in a true Christmas miracle, Santa Claus was born.

1 comment:

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