If you love Christmastime with its lovely candlelit and festive decor and holiday shoppers buzzing about, you'll want to learn more about how this holiday first came about. Where did Santa come from? Is he real?
There's a wonderful site called, fittingly enough, The History of Christmas (thehistoryofchristmas.com). They have wonderful information on every aspect on the big jolly old elf himself as well as how the season first came to be celebrated.
Here's a brief sample of what you'll learn there. And there's plenty more for you to read on your own.
· St. Nicholas really did exist. He was a priest born in 220AD in Italy. He was a rich man known for sharing his wealth with those less fortunate. He was often found helping children. But he did not like the recognition he received for his generosity. So, he began leaving presents secretly for children after dark. Hence, the tradition was born of parents telling their children to go to sleep or St. Nicholas would not come and bring them presents. St. Nicholas became so popular that by the 1400s there were over 2000 chapels and monasteries named in his honor.
· In the 1600s, Christmas took a sour turn. The Puritans banned St. Nicholas and any mention of him. They also banned Christmas celebrations and carols.
· By 1770 St. A. Claus came on the scene in America through advertising efforts.
· In 1812, Washington Irving wrote a book that features St. Nicholas, who had now become one and the same with Santa Claus, riding over the treetops in a wagon.
· An 1821 poem by William Gilley featured "santeclaus" dressed in fur and driving a sleigh led by a reindeer.
· Perhaps the 1822 poem, The Night Before Christmas, is most responsible for giving us the picture we have in our heads of Santa today. It featured a dreamlike story of a jolly old man in red driving a team of 8 reindeer and handing out Christmas gifts to the whole world. He enters the homes via chimney and leaves without being seen.
· By the 1920s, Santa was firmly imprinted on America's consciousness as a fat, old, white haired man with a beard who laughs with a "ho, ho, ho."
· The 1930s saw Santa in print in Coke's advertising. Santa now had a universal image everyone could relate to. And he drank Coke! Who knew? Coke's image of Santa Claus remains to this day the most popular portrayal of the guy from the North Pole.
Kids all over the world welcome presents at Christmas time. Some think they come from Santa Claus, some from a witch and some from a Dutch saint. No matter what their holiday tradition, everyone recognizes Santa Claus as the icon of the Christmas holiday.
Some now feel that Santa has replaced Christ as the reason for Christmas and movements are taking place to "put Christ back in Christmas." Many people object to the spelling of Christmas as "X-mas" thinking that Christ is being crossed out and replaced by an X, but the truth behind that abbreviation stemmed from a time when people were persecuted for worshiping Christ. They put the X to stand in for Christ so they would not be arrested and punished. Christmas today is a joyful holiday when goodwill and cheer is in the air.
Barbara Peterson is a large fan of holidays and any opportunity to host a party, plan a party, or be creative with the festivities. Look for more work by Barbara Peterson for more holidays!
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