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The story of our moden Santa Claus.

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obiwan
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Posted on Monday, 24 December, 2007 - 11:37 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I just posted this for the season, feel free to delete it after the holidays. I should have posted it sooner, but didn't think about it. I typed it in from another book I have. It was in for parts, all posted together here (I left out one part as it only dealt with Santa today, crime stories etc...) I hope you find it interesting and enjoy it.

Merry Christmas all, and I hope your new year brings all your wants and desires!



Santa Claus, Part One.

A Man Named Nicholas.


In the fourth century A. D., A man named Nicholas became the bishop of a village called Myra in what is now named Turkey. That's about all we know about him.

Nevertheless, Bishop Nicholas of Myra was later canonized and went on to become the most popular saint in all Christianity. He is the guardian saint of Russia, Australia, Belgium France, Germany, Norway and Greece. His is the patron saint of children, virgins, pawnbrokers, pirates, thieves, brewers, pilgrims, fishermen, barrel makers, dyers, butchers, meatpackers, and haberdashers. He has more churches named after him than any of the apostles. And he has evolved into one of the best-known characters in the world.... the jolly, red-suited Santa Claus, who delivers presents on Christmas Eve, St. Nick. How did that happen?? Well, it took centuries.

Making a Saint

It's a pretty safe bet that the real Saint Nicholas of Myra was a kind and generous man, because most of the legends attributed to him describe kind acts towards children. Here are two of the most famous.

1. The Three Daughters.
Nicholas was walking past a house when he heard a man telling his three daughters that he was selling them into prostitution because he didn't have enough money for the dowries that would make them desirable wives. Later that night, Nicholas snuck back into the house and threw a bag of gold through a window. He did the same thing the following night, and then again on the third night, providing enough gold for all three daughters dowries. (According to a later version of the story, one of the bags landed in a stocking that was hanging out to dry over the fireplace.)

Because of this, he became the patron saint of young brides and unmarried women. A And because he delivered financial aid at a time when the girls needed it most, pawnbrokers made him their patron saint. To this day, the symbol of the pawnbroker trade is three balls of gold - a spin-off of St. Nick's three bags of gold.

2. The Three Boys.
For centuries it was common to paint St. Nicholas as holding his three bags of gold. But not every artist painted them well.... and at some point during the Middle Ages, artists painting new pictures of the saint began mistaking the bags for three human heads. To explain this image, a second legend evolved. According to this tale, St. Nicholas checked into an inn during a terrible famine and was surprised when the innkeeper served him meat - which had been unobtainable for months - for dinner. Suspecting the worst, Nicholas snuck down into the cellar and found the pickled bodies of three murdered young boys floating in a barrel. He restored the boys to life and helped them escape.

St. Nick And Kids.

These tales helped make St. Nick the patron saint of children. And to honor him, Europeans began giving gifts to their children on the Eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, which fell on December 6th.

Nicholas was especially popular in Holland. The Dutch St. Nick was tall and gaunt, wore the traditional dress of a bishop, including the pointed bishop's hat (a mitre), and carried a large shepherd's staff. He also rode on a donkey, not in a sleigh. Later, it became a white horse. On St. Nicholas's Eve, children left shoes filled with straw for the donkey, and by morning, the straw was gone and their shoes were filled with presents.




St. Nick Arrives In America.

In 1664, the flourishing Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was taken over by the British forces - who renamed it "New York" after the Duke of York. For the next 200 years or so, the Dutch citizens of the colony waged a losing battle to preserve what was left of their culture and traditions. One of the most active groups was an association of Dutch intellectuals who called themselves the "Knickerbockers."

Father Knickerbocker.
A writer named Washington Irving was a member of the group, and in 1809, he published a satirical version of Dutch traditions in a book called The Knickerbocker's History of New York. It contained several dozen references to "Sinter Klass" (an adaptation of "Sint Kikolass"), including a tale of how he flew across the sky in a wagon and dropped presents down chimneys for good little girls and boys - not just on Christmas, but on any day he felt like it.

Irving "created a new popularity for the bishop," Teresa Chris writes in The Story of Santa Claus. He saw Saint Nicholas in America not in clerical robes, but as a jolly fellow, like the good Dutch burghers." And new Yorkers loved the image.

Irving's description of the saint rapidly became known to New Yorkers. The English settlers enthusiastically adopted the joyful Dutch celebrations of St. Nicholas's day, but the gradually merged them with their own traditions of celebrating Christmas or the New Year. It is not hard to see how Sinter Klass became Santa Claus in the mouths of the English-speaking New-Yorkers.


Santa's Helper: Clement Clarke Moore
The most important contribution to the modern image of Santa was a professor of divinity in New York - Dr. Clement Clarke Moore.

When Moore, a friend of Washington Irving, sat down to write his children a Christmas poem in 1822, he was heavily influenced by Irving's vision of Sinter Klass and his flying wagon and gift-giving. But Moore made a few alterations to make the story more believable. For example, Chris writes, "the clogs that the Dutch children left in the chimney corner on December 6th became something all children could relate to in cold weather - stockings." And the wagon became a miniature sleigh pulled by "eight tiny reindeer."

The sleigh and horse wit it's bells was a common means of transport in New England... And for it to be pulled by reindeer gave St. Nick an exotic link with the far North.... a land of cold and snow where few, if any people traveled and hence was mysterious and remote.

Moore described Santa as a dwarfish "jolly old elf," dressed in furs, who goes down chimneys to give children their gifts. Moore even gave the reindeer names: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen. Other Christmas stories had portrayed Saint Nicholas on a white horse, or with one or two reindeer - one version even had him in a cart pulled by a goat - but Moore's account was so vivid and compelling that it became the standard.

Reluctant Hero
Moore never intended for anyone other than his children to hear "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" - in fact, for more than twenty years he refused to admit he was the author (apparently because he was afraid it would damage his standing in the stuffy academic community of the 19th century). But his wife liked the story so much that she sent copies to her friends.... and somehow the poem would up printed anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel on December 23rd, 1823. It was so popular that within a decade it had become a central part of the Santa legend... as well as the best-known poem in American history.

Now Santa had a personality and a mission, and was permanently linked to Christmas. But, what did he look like??


Santa's Helper: Thomas Nast
In the mid-1800's, it was popular to draw St. Nick either in his bishop's robes or as a man wit a pointed hat, a log coat and a straight beard. Sometimes he even had black hair.

This changed in 1863, when Harper's Weekly hired 21 year-old Thomas Nast to draw a picture of Santa Claus bringing gifts to Union troops fighting the Civil War. The Santa that Nast drew combined Clemens Moore's description of St. Nicholas in his poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" with, believe it or not.... Uncle Sam. Nast's Santa was a jolly, roly-poly old man who wore a start-spangled jacket, striped pants and a cap.

"The drawing boosted the spirits of the soldiers and civilians alike because it showed that the spirit of Christmas had come to the Civil War," says historian James I. Robertson. It was so popular that every year, for 40 years, when the magazine asked Nast to draw Santa's, he stuck to the same concept - - although he did drop the stars and stripes in favor of a plain wool suit. "Hence," Robinson says, "the American Santa Claus took shape by repetition. We just became accustomed to this same figure."

A Growing Image
Nast added new little details every Christmas: one year he showed Santa pouring over a list of naughty and nice children; another year showed him in a toy workshop in the North Pole.

Nast also went on to become the most famous political cartoonist of the 19th century - he's responsible for the giving the Democrat party its donkey and the republican party it's elephant - but the Santa drawings are his best remembered works.

In fact, Nast almost single-handedly established the Santa "image" as it is today .... except in one major area: the color of his suit. That was a product of Coca-Cola.


Santa's Helper: Haddon Sundblom
In 1931, the Coca-Cola company hired an artist named Haddon Sundblom to create the artwork for a massive Christmas advertising campaign they were preparing.

Until then, the soda was primarily a summer drink, with sales dropping off sharply in the cooler winter months. Coke hoped to reverse this trend by somehow linking the drink to the winter holidays ... and they decided the most effective way to do that would be to make Santa a Coke drinker. Sundblom was told to create a painting of Mr. Claus that the company could use in magazine advertisements.

Sundblom's first brainstorm was to dump Nast's black and white Santa Suit in favor of one in Coca-Cola red and white. Then he managed to find a real-life retired Coca-Cola sales rep named Lou Prentice who looked so much like Santa that he could be used as a model. "Prior to the Sundblom illustrations, "Mark Pendergrast writes in For God, Country and Coca-Cola," the Christmas saint had been variously illustrated wearing blue, yellow, green, or red .... After the soft drink ads, Santa would forevermore be a huge, fat, relentlessly happy man with a broad belt and black hip boots - and he would wear Coca-Cola red...... While Coca-Cola has had a subtle, pervasive influence on our culture, it has directly shaped the way we think of Santa.

Santa's Helper: Robert May
More commercial influence: In 1939, Montgomery Ward hired ad man Robert May to write a Christmas poem that their department store Santa's could give away during the holiday season.

He came up with one he called "Rollo the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Executives of the company accepted it, but didn't like the name Rollo. So May renamed the reindeer Reginald - the only name he could think of that preserved the poem's rhythm. Montgomery Ward rejected that name too. Try as he might, May couldn't come up with another name that fit - until he four year-old daughter suggested Rudolph. The rest is history as they say. When the poem was put to music and recorded by singing cowboy Gene Autry, it became the second-best selling single in history at that time.

And that's how we got the Santa Claus we have today. Many people don't know that in the early years of this country (the USA), we didn't even celebrate Christmas at all! After the revolutionary war, it was deemed just "too British", and we didn't want any part of it.

For many years, congress met at the capitol and worked full days. It was only later after people realized, that as a new country, we had a calendar with no holidays on it! So they sought out days to fill the calendar in with, and Christmas was one of them.
Do Not Hit The Fly That Lands On The Tigers Head.
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terrym
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Posted on Tuesday, 25 December, 2007 - 03:52 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks Obiwan, a nice read on a quiet Christmas day.

TM
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dave_g
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Posted on Tuesday, 25 December, 2007 - 09:19 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Merry Christmas to everyone!
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john_becker
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Posted on Wednesday, 26 December, 2007 - 11:06 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

That's an interesting tale Obiwan.

But it leaves me feeling very disturbed - I knew about the basic European background of the Santa tradition, but I had no idea that it had been added to by the American Coca Cola company and that the image which is so familar to us all on this pond side is not also of European origin.

I wish I could refute the allegation the story puts forward but do not have any facts. What do others have to say?

J
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poplar10
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Posted on Wednesday, 26 December, 2007 - 12:00 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

John,

Fear not, for it looks as though the Coca Cola/Sant Claus story is yet another of these cases where the facts are massaged to make a good story. Have a look at http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/santa.asp
which reminded me of that poem which begins "Twas the night before Christmas...". Most can recall the first couple of lines which include a reference to a mouse. Read the whole poem at http://www.carols.org.uk/twas_the_night_before_christmas.htm

Best wishes to all,
John
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john_becker
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Posted on Wednesday, 26 December, 2007 - 05:51 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Curious - I posted a reply this a.m.., somewhere along these lines -

Thanks Poplar, that's restored my faith in what I did believe was a European tradition :-)

Too many times I've found aspects of history distorted by Hollywood in particular, and I hated to think that C-C was at it as well ---

I'm still grateful to Obiwan for his original interesting post!

J
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obiwan
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Posted on Thursday, 27 December, 2007 - 12:46 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Popular, John,

This does jive with what I wrote (or should I say, copied).

The only thing Coca-Cola did, was standardize the color of Stanta's image, and make it so popular here in the US.

I know what snopes is referring to. There IS a legend out there that Coca-Cola is FAR more responsible for "Christmas" than anybody thought. And that is not so. (I remember being quite surprised when I read that myself). If I find it, I will either post it or send it.

I wrote that "the Christmas saint had been variously illustrated wearing blue, yellow, green, or red". which is what snopes says. (Coca-Cola settled on red/white) And Coca-cola presented in mass form to the America public.

Same with Nast. Nast didn't create the image of Santa, only "standardized". And by that, I mean in his drawings, not that he created the "standard". (simply by drawing roughly the same Santa over and over, not a short one, one year, a tall skinny one the next etc....)

In what I wrote, it does sound like Nast did "create" the image of Santa. But it isn't really, he is only settling on one image. (more or less, as he did change them a bit from year to year).



John, you're reading far to much into it. This isn't saying that America or Coca-Cola in anyway created the Santa image. (basically we kept using the same rough image of Santa, and used the same color over and over. But did not create those images)

Does that make sense?
Do Not Hit The Fly That Lands On The Tigers Head.
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john_becker
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Posted on Thursday, 27 December, 2007 - 11:41 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Perhaps I'm just being over-sensistive to preserving our European myths Obiwan. All too often they have been taken as the basis for a movie for example and have been embellished for the sake of a good story. And why not?

Take Dracula for instance - I'll bet our UK concepts of him have more to do with say Hammer Studios and Christopher Lee, than with the myth about the tale's origins based on Brad the Impaler I believe.

I recall too that when the film about Enigma came out on this side that there was a degree of disquiet that the USA appeared to be taking more credit than was the historical case. I'll bet other readers could well have their own examples.

But yes, I admit that perhaps I was over-reacting to the implications of the Santa/Coke link.

Anyway, you've helped to provide a bit of extra interest during the occasional blank spot over this Xmas interlude, well done :-)

J
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philwarn
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Posted on Thursday, 27 December, 2007 - 07:01 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hi John,

It was VLAD the Impaler, just to correct the name for you. Was he ever played by BRAD Pitt?

Vlad Tepeg (Tebeg = Impaler) was also known as Vlad Draculea in Romanian.

So Bram Stoker was pinching quite a bot of a real character.

Vlad was born in 1431 in what is now Romania and died in 1476.

I bet you are Vlad you know that!

Phil
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obiwan
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Posted on Thursday, 27 December, 2007 - 08:59 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Ditto Marry Shelly too....

I agree with you on that point John, hollowood takes way too many liberties as far as I'm concerned (and THAT isn't a misspelling....).

It's gotten to the point I hardly watch anything that comes from that cesspool any more. I never go to theaters any more (except for an occasional IMAX film)

And it's so sad people actually believe most of what comes out of there, they get their history lessons, and science from those stinkaroos.

(and the really sad part of it is, in many places outside the US, they're bombarded with these steaming piles, over and over, they can't help believe the theme, America is a horrible place and it's government will kill at the drop of a hat for personal gain. I've started keeping a list of moves like that, and there's some names on there you wouldn't think of right off the bat.)

Better get off of that soap box.....

In any case, glad you're no longer disturbed by it, and hope you had a Merry one!
Do Not Hit The Fly That Lands On The Tigers Head.
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ant
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Posted on Thursday, 27 December, 2007 - 10:52 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hello Phil,

Why would Bram Stoker want to pinch a vampire's bot?

Happy New Year!

Regards Ant
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keith
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Posted on Sunday, 30 December, 2007 - 02:15 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

How true that is about Hollywood, we watched Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy over Christmas and it is quite a bit removed from the story as Douglas Adams wrote it and the radio and subsequent tv series both of which followed the book to the letter. Watching the film was a disappointment for me because I'm such a fan of HHGTTG and of Douglas Adams that I virtually know the script almost off by heart. The film just didn't cut it for me although it was entertaining in it's own way and probably would be very enjoyable for someone who hadn't read the book or seen the tv series.

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