Steemy Christmas my friends, steemy Christmas! I wish you and your beloved happy holidays. Do you sense the Christmas wonder? The fancy decoration, people coming together, lovely music and gift-giving! Wherever you look you will see shiny colors, perhaps snow and people with red jelly bag caps, pretending to be Santa.
Today’s Myth or Fact deals with the question whether Santa Claus exists or not. All these wonderful gifts, where do they come from? Is there someone with a sleigh and reindeers flying through the sky to land on your roof and drop some presents for the well-behaved? Let’s investigate this case!
Who is Santa Claus?
Fig.1: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus source
Thinking of Christmas and Santa, we all have a similar picture in mind. A man with a big round belly, white-bearded, dressed in a red costume and having a big sack with lots of presents. But where does this cliche come from?
The origin lies in Asia Minor, in the Roman empire. In the years between 270 and 343 there was a bishop called Nikoloas of Myra. There is only little known about his life but yet he has a huge influence in today’s world. He inherited a little fortune which he donated to the poor. Legends say there was a poor man who wanted to prostitute his three daughters because he wasn’t able to fulfill the dowry expectations. Nikoloas heard of this man and decided to help. On each night he climbed into the house of one of the mans daughters and left a gold nugget. On the third day the father caught Nikoloas and wanted to thank him. Another myth says that during a great famine in Myra people had to starve. Nikoloas heard there is a ship in the port that had cereals. He asked the seamen to share some of the crop but they denied because it was the crop of the emperor of Byzantium. However he promised them to pay the cost. They shared the crop, left Myra and as they arrived in Byzantium they saw the weight of the delivery did not change. None of crop has gone but people in Myra had food for more than two years.
On the 6th of December Saint Nicholas died. Ever since then it’s tradition to fill the shoes of children with gifts. This is related to the legend of the three daughters where Nicholas put some gold into their shoes.
Dutch expatriates who moved to the US imported the rite of the Sinterklaasfeest and the dutch name Sinterklaas became Santa Claus. But where do the reindeers and chimney stories come from?
In 1822 a poem by Clement Clarke Moore was published:
Twas the Night before Christmas Poem
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
Because of this poem the myth of Santa Claus and his flying reindeers was born.
A good legend
There was someone similar to today’s Santa Claus, however he wasn’t able to fly with reindeers and didn’t fall through the chimney of other people's houses. But don’t tell this your children! I probably should tag this article NSFW in order to prevent children from reading this. I hope I didn’t destroy any dreams or hurt your feelings. The only truth is that on Eastern a little rabbit hides eggs we need to find.
Thanks for reading and merry Christmas my friends. In case you don’t celebrate Christmas I wish you some great holidays and a good time.