Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Traditions #4- Santa Claus

Are you waiting for the jolly old fat man to visit your house tonight? I am. I'm like a little kid when it comes to Christmas...I absolutely adore watching people opening presents, just to see the looks on their faces when you give them a good gift (plus I also like to get presents of my own). When I really was a little kid, I used to worry about families who didn't have a fireplace. How did Santa get into their houses? That bothered me more than wondering how a fat man managed to travel around the world in one night (thankfully the Tim Allen movie The Santa Clause answered it all for me). But who exactly is Santa Claus?

The legend of Santa Claus really does come from the historical Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was a 4th century Catholic bishop in modern-day Turkey who was known for devoting himself to helping the poor. He worried so much about a group of three poor sisters who did not have the money for dowries (money that women brought into marriage) and were on the verge of becoming prostitutes just to support themselves. Nicholas refused to allow this to happen and scrounged up the money to dower the girls.

As Christianity spread, Saint Nicholas' story merged with the Germanic traditions of honoring Odin, King of the Norse gods. Odin, who had a long white beard, would travel around during Yuletide (our Christmas season) and reward good children with small gifts. The children would leave dried fruit for Odin and carrots and wheat for the horse that he used to travel. Germanic families would also celebrate Yule by having ham dinners (how many of you will be having ham at some point this Christmas?).

Just like all of the other Christmas traditions, Santa Claus/Saint Nicholas came to America with Dutch and Germanic immigrants who came here in the late 1700's. Now, instead of dried fruit, we leave him cookies and milk. I guess this is where the fat belly comes from...we've hurt Santa's health over the years! Imagine what his cholesterol is! Personally, if I was Santa, I'd spend more time in Ireland- the kids there leave Guinness out for him :)

1 comment:

  1. It's been such a wonderful Christmas Eve. We always spend it at my German grandmother and my grandfather... I felt so much love and happiness. My cousin read from the Bible, and I played Christmas hymns on my trumpet. I was blessed with so many nice clothes and jewelry. I also got a beautiful blanket that my grandmother crocheted in our black and gold school colors. I too love giving presents... lol, my uncle's a big fisher and we got him salt and pepper shakers shaped like red and white bobbers. Anywho... Santa, St. Nick... whatever you want to call him treated us good this Christmas. Christ is the reason for the season, but Santa's cool too! Maybe we should leave him a salad.