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The History of Santa Claus and Christmas

The History of Santa Claus and Christmas

 

Introduction-"Santa Claus" is the most famous of the myriad of traditions surrounding the Christmas season.  He is one of the most enduring global personifications of the holiday season.

Santa now enjoys a nearly universal image as the jolly plump gentleman carrying his bag of toys, steering his reindeer and sliding down chimneys.  This image we all have of him is relatively new, considering how long he has been part of the culture of virtually all peoples for hundreds of years.

The primary reason Santa Claus was not always perceived in the same form as he is today was the primitive means of communication available in those early times, combined with the slow intermingling of cultures and religious beliefs.

When Christianity spread throughout the Old World, the drama of the first Christmas was told to each succeeding generation.  Gift giving commemorated the generosity of the three wise men who traveled to Bethlehem bearing gold Frankinsence and myrrh as gifts.

Three hundred years later a man named Nicholas was born in what is now Turkey.  It was not long before legends began spreading about him and the marvelous deeds reputed to him.  One of the legends directly concerned the giving of gifts demonstrating his concern for those in need.

St. Nicholas was eventually to become one of the most universally revered saints, a patron of many occupations and even some nations.  Although Canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in the ninth century, it is generally believed this official sainthood status earlier.

St. Nicholas' death of December 6th made that date on the calendar his special day.  The various cultural and religious rites commemorating St. Nicholas day gradually became associated with Christmas as an extension of the holiday season.

The melding of Christianity with pagan cultures over the centuries, through the Crusades, the movement of nomadic tribes, and conversion, gradually provided St. Nicholas with a unique role in each culture.  As with the role he played, the visual perception of him differed as well.  In some areas his image was shaped by the belief in the pagan god Odin.  In others, Saturn played a major role.

The various images of the man and legend Santa Claus has brightened the lives of nearly every young child in the world for over a thousand years.

Information Provided by Duncan Royale
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