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"The jolly old elf"

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  • kmlightseeker
    Here is an interesting history of the Santa Claus story and custom: Santa Claus (folklore) Santa Claus (folklore), the legendary Christmas gift-bringer, a fat
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 22, 2005
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      Here is an interesting history of the Santa Claus story and custom:

      "Santa Claus (folklore)

      Santa Claus (folklore), the legendary Christmas gift-bringer, a fat
      jolly white-bearded man dressed in a red suit trimmed with white, and
      driving a sleigh full of toys drawn through the air by eight reindeer.
      Santa Claus (also called St Nicholas, St Nick, or Father Christmas),
      so the story goes, visits every home on Christmas Eve, descending down
      the chimney to leave presents under the tree and in the stockings of
      all good children. Although this familiar image of Santa Claus was
      introduced into the United States from Holland in the 17th century,
      and into England from Germany in the mid-19th century, it has roots in
      ancient European folklore and has influenced celebrations of Christmas

      St Nicholas was a 4th-century bishop of Asia Minor noted in early
      Christian legend for saving storm-tossed sailors, defending young
      children, and especially for giving generous gifts to the poor.
      Although many of the stories about Nicholas are of doubtful
      authenticity (such as his delivering a bag of gold by dropping it down
      a chimney), his legend spread widely throughout Europe, emphasizing
      his role as a traditional bringer of gifts. The Christian St Nicholas
      replaced or incorporated various pagan gift-giving figures such as the
      Roman Befana and the Germanic Berchta and Knecht Ruprecht. The saint
      was called Sankt Nikolaus in Germany and Sanct Herr Nicholaas or
      Sinterklaas in Holland. In these countries Nicholas was sometimes said
      to ride through the sky on a horse delivering gifts. He wore a
      bishop's robes, and was at times accompanied by Black Peter, an elf
      whose job was to whip naughty children.

      St Nicholas's Day, when presents were received, was originally
      celebrated on December 6 but, after the Reformation, German
      Protestants encouraged emphasis on the Christkindl (Christ child) as
      gift-giver on His own feast day, December 25. When the Nicholas
      tradition prevailed, it became attached to Christmas itself. (In 1969,
      because the saint's life was so thinly documented, Pope Paul VI
      ordered the feast of St Nicholas to be dropped from the official Roman
      Catholic calendar.) Ironically, the term Christkindl had evolved into
      Kriss Kringle, another nickname for Santa Claus.

      Various other Christmas gift-givers in European folklore, such as Père
      Noël in France, Julenisse in Scandinavia, and Father Christmas in
      England, are loosely related to St Nicholas. But it was the Dutch
      figure, Sinter Klaas, which settlers brought with them to Nieuw
      Amsterdam (now New York), that inspired the American transformation of
      the figure and even gave him his name. The variation on his name,
      rendered as St A Claus, appeared as early as 1773 in the American
      press; however, it was the popular author Washington Irving who gave
      Americans their first detailed information about the Dutch version of
      St Nicholas. In his History of New York (1809) published under the
      pseudonym Diedrich Knickbocker, Irving described the expected arrival
      of the saint on horseback (but without Black Peter) each St Nicholas
      Eve. This Dutch-American St Nick was fully Americanized in his
      now-familiar form in Clement Clarke Moore's well-known poem, first
      published in 1823, A Visit From Saint Nicholas, more commonly known as
      The Night Before Christmas. Moore included such details as the names
      of the reindeer, the laughs, winks, and nods of Santa's demeanour, and
      the method by which "the jolly old elf" gets back up the chimney. The
      rotund image of Santa Claus was further delineated by the artist
      Thomas Nast, who provided illustrations of Santa for Christmas issues
      of Harper's magazine from the 1860s to the 1880s. Nast added such
      details as Santa's workshop at the North Pole and Santa's keeping
      track of good and bad children in the world.

      Every year at Christmas time in many parts of the world, advertising,
      greeting cards, seasonal decorations, and the appearance of Santas in
      department stores uphold the modern legend of Santa Claus. Children
      write letters to Santa Claus and leave out food and drink for Santa's
      snack. In Britain, meanwhile, the image of Santa Claus as a rotund,
      friendly figure on a sleigh drawn by reindeer, began to appear on
      Christmas cards.

      Despite the nostalgic pleasure with which many adults view children's
      belief in Santa Claus, the modernized saintly gift-giver has some
      detractors. Most people view Santa as merely the embodiment of a
      spirit of giving, and they accept children's inevitable discovery that
      Santa is mythical as a "rite of passage" into the adult world. But
      others argue that the Santa story conflicts with the true meaning of
      Christmas and merely promotes greed and commercialism. A few have even
      opposed Santa on the basis that his name can be seen as an anagram of
      Satan! To reconcile the story of Santa Claus with the religious
      significance of Christmas, some Christians propose that we remind
      ourselves that the modern character is ultimately derived from legends
      about an early saint whose life story symbolized love, caring, and

      Microsoft ® Encarta ® Encyclopedia 2004. © 1993-2003 Microsoft
      Corporation. All rights reserved."

      Another interesting history:

      "Saint Nicholas and the Origin of Santa Claus":



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