Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Santa’s Cordial Benevolence

The legend of ‘Santa Claus’ dates all the way back to the 4th century, when a child named ‘Nicholas’ was born in Turkey. At that time, nobody knew that he was to become world renowned as Santa Claus, but Nicholas soon showed signs of special abilities. As a grown-up he became catholic bishop of Myra (a city now in Turkey), in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, where according to legend, he only did good deeds. He was very pious from an early age, devoting his life to Christianity. He became widely known for his generosity for the poor. But the Romans held him in contempt. He was imprisoned and tortured. But when Constantine became emperor of Rome, he allowed Nicholas to go free. Constantine became a Christian and convened the Council of Nicaea in 325. Nicholas was a delegate to the council. He is especially noted for his love of children and for his generosity. He is the patron saint of sailors, Sicily, Greece, and Russia. He is also, of course, the patron saint of children. The Dutch kept the legend of St. Nicholas alive. In 16th century Holland, Dutch children would place their wooden shoes by the hearth in hopes that they would be filled with a treat. The Dutch spelled St. Nicholas as Sint Nikolaas, which became corrupted to Sinterklaas, and finally, in Anglican, to Santa Claus.

One of the deeds later associated with Nicholas as Santa Claus or gift donor took place when he saved a family from poverty one night by throwing money through their window. But Nicholas was capable of much more than that. He could, by the power of God, bring the dead back to life and save sailors from storms. Therefore, Nicholas (later known as Santa Claus) was beatified and initially, was mostly honored by the sailors.

At first, Nicholas became a Catholic saint, but during the Reformation hagiolatry was abandoned by the Protestants. However, it was difficult to just drop St. Nicholas due to his popularity; thus, he was portrayed without a bishop’s miter and was named Santa Claus. People from all over the world send letters to Santa Claus in Finland. Santa Claus gave treats to children and he was regarded as a special friend and protector of children. In Poland, Santa Claus gives gifts on the 6th of  December. Santa has 31 hoursof Christmas to work  with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth. Coincidentally, Nicolas had died in December, thus, it was now easy to associate him asSanta Claus with Christmas and gift-giving.That’s how St. Nicholas became known under the name Santa Claus in Europe and later on, also in the USA. His story was spread by the Dutch sailors berthing in New York. He is also known as Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kriss Kringle, Santy or simply Santa.

In 1822, Clement C. Moore composed his famous poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," which was later published as "The Night Before Christmas."

The popular image of Santa Claus was created by the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast in (1840–1902) i.e.; 1866. The image was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s. He made a montage entitled, "Santa Claus and His Works" and for the first time established Santa as a maker of toys.

Santa Claus has been widely used as a commercial eye catcher, in particular after 1930, when Coca Cola used him in their advertisements for the first time. Here he had a big, white beard, black boots, a big red coat, and an infectious laughter - exactly like we know and love him today. It was Coca-Cola's magazine advertisements, billboards, and point-of-sale store displays that exposed nearly everyone in America to the modern Santa Claus image.

No Christmas event is complete without the presence of Santa Claus. Children believe that 'Santa Claus' brings them presents the night before Christmas. In most countries children believe that Father Christmas (Santa Claus) lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi, north of the Arctic Circle and he arrives
through the sky on a sledge pulled by reindeer. He enters into houses down the chimney at midnight and places presents for the children in socks or bags by their beds or under the Christmas tree. It is an eagerly awaited occasion as kids look for their gifts with great anxiety.

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