Santa Claus Is Coming!

             santa-world-2

              Santa Claus is known by many names around the world and his legend differs depending on where you live. But where do these stories originate and how did Santa evolve over generations?

                Let’s go all the way back to the 4th century and a Greek bishop who would become known as St. Nicholas.  Nikolaos of Myra lived from 15 March 270 to 6 December 343 and became the Bishop of Myra. After his death and the recording of miracles attributed to him he was recognized as a saint although he was never canonized.

nick-trip
Catholic World Report

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

st-nicholas
St. Nicholas Center, Ukraine

One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios’ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.


Santa Claus Around the Worldsanta-world-3

Santa Claus is the mythical good-hearted figure who delivers toys to children around the world each year on Christmas Eve.

According to legend, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole with Mrs. Claus and oversees a toy workshop run by busy elves. Each December 24th, on the eve of the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Santa is said to fly around the world delivering his toys in a sled pulled by eight reindeer: Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donder (or Donner), Prancer, and Vixen. (A ninth reindeer with a shiny nose, Rudolph, was introduced in Gene Autry’s 1949 country music hit “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”)

The name Santa Claus was derived from Sinterklaas, the Dutch term for the ancient Christian figure of Saint Nicholas. According to tradition, that Saint Nicholas lived in the region of Lycia (now in Turkey) during the 4th century AD. The Santa Claus myth was popularized in America by the 1823 poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas,” attributed to Clement Moore.


santa-names-2

However, even if his name differs from one country to another, children around the world share a common view of Santa Claus as the old man who brings gifts to little girls and boys.

In England, his name is Father Christmas and he leaves gifts in stockings on Christmas Eve.

In France, he is known as Père Noël. On Christmas Eve, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Père Noël.

In Italy, traditionally there was no Santa Claus but a witch named La Befana who brought presents and sweets. Nowadays, most children in Italy believe in Santa Claus. He is called Babbo Natale inItaly.

In Russia, Santa Claus is known as Father Frost (Ded Moroz). Folklore depicts him riding with an evergreen tree in a traditional Russian sleigh drawn by three horses.

In parts of Germany, people believe that the Christ Child sends a messenger to bring gifts on Christmas Eve. The messenger’s name is Christkind and appears as an angel in a white robe and crown. There is also      a character who looks like Santa Claus, called Weihnachtsmann or Christmas Man, who also brings gifts.

In Portugal, he is known as Pai Natal.

Ecuadorians call him Santa Claus, but Papá Noel is more widely used. He is also known as Papá Noel in Argentina.

In Hungarian he is called Mikulás (from St. Nikolaus).

Santa Claus’ name in Polish is Swiety Mikolaj.

In Greece, there is Agios Vassilios. He comes to visit on New Year’s Eve to bring presents.

In Bosnian, Santa Claus is referred to as Djed Mraz.

Papa Noel is the Haitian Creole version of Santa Claus.

In Brazil, Santa Claus is called Papai Noel, and because in December it is so warm in Brazil, he usually wears light-weight, silk clothing.

In Lebanon, most Christians speak English or French as a second language, so they simply use Santa Claus or Papa Noel. However, since the letter “P” doesn’t exist in the Lebanese alphabet, the written word became Baba Noel. “Baba” means “Papa” in Lebanese.

The Spanish translation for Santa is Papá Noel.


Whatever he is called children around the world eagerly await his Christmas Eve visit often struggling to stay awake and catch him delivering gifts. One legend claims Santa Claus keeps two lists all year long noting which boys are girls were “Naughty” or “Nice”. While nice children get gifts, naughty children get coal in their stockings.

coming-to-town
“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” – © Leo Feist Inc. N.Y. Music – J. Fred Coots Lyrics – Haven Gillespie

A song has even been written about these lists: Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus is coming to town

You better watch out, you better not cry

You better not pout, I’m telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus is coming to town

He’s making a list and checking it twice

Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice,

 Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping

He knows when you’re a wake

He knows if you’ve been bad or good

So be good for goodness sake

Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry

Better not pout, I’m telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town,

With little tin horns and little toy drums

Rooty toot toots and rummy tum tums

Curly head dolls that toddle and coo

Elephants, boats and kiddie cars too

Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus is coming to town

 


The Night Before Christmas

twas-the-night-before-christmas

According to legendClement Clarke Moore wrote his immortal poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, also known as The Night Before Christmas, for his family on Christmas Eve 1822. He never intended that it be published, but a family friend, Miss Harriet Butler, learned of the poem sometime later from Moore’s children. She copied it into her album, and submitted it to the editor of the Troy (New York) Sentinel where it made its first appearance in print on December 23, 1823. Soon, the poem began to be reprinted in other newspapers, almanacs and magazines, with the first appearance in a book in The New York Book of Poetry, edited by Charles Fenno Hoffman, in 1837.

It was not until 1844, however, that Moore himself acknowledged authorship in a volume of his poetry entitled Poems, published at the request of his children. One hundred and eighty years later it is the most-published, most-read, most-memorized and most-collected book in all of Christmas literature.

(http://www.nightbeforechristmas.biz/poem.htm)


santa-names

Santa’s Names Around the World

Albania                        Babadimri

Argentina                    Papa Noel

Armenia                      Gaghant Baba

Australia                      Santa Claus

Bahamas                      Santa Claus

Belgium                       Pere Noel

Bermuda                     Santa Claus

Brazil                           Papai Noel

Bulgaria                      Dyado Koleda

Chile                            Viejo Pascuero

China                           Dun Che Lao Ren

Denmark                     Julemanden

Egypt                            Papa Noel

England                       Father Christmas

France                         Pere Noel

Finland                        Joulupukki

Germany                     Weihnachtsmann

Greece                         Agios Vassilios

Hawaii                         Kanokaloka

Holland                       De Kerstmann

Hungary                      Mikulas

India                            Santa Claus, Baba

Iran                              Baba Noel

Iraq                              Vader kerfees

Ireland                         Santa, Santee or Daidi Na Nollaig

Italy                               Babbo Natale

Jamaica                        Santa Claus

Japan                             Hoteiosho (a god or priest who bears gifts)

Kenya                            Father Christmas/Santa Claus

Lithuania                      Kaledo Senelis

Morocco                       Black Peter

Netherlands                 Kerstman

New Zealand                Santa Claus

Norway                         Julenissens (Christmas Gnome)

Peru                                Papa Noel

Poland                            Swiety Mikolaj

Portugal                       Pai Natal

Romania                      Mos Craciun

Russia                          Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost)

Scandinavia                Julenisse

Serbia                          Deda Mroz

South Africa              Vader Kersfees

Spain                           Papa Noel/El Nino Jesus

Sweden                       Jultomten (Christmans Brownie)

Trinidad & Tobago     Santa Claus

Turkey                          Noel Baba

United Kingdom         Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle


Merry Christmas to All

and

to All a Goodnight!

santa-mrs-elves
Santa, Mrs. Claus & the Elves

 

 

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