Tag Archives: Saint Nicholas

Ho Ho Ho!

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, 1881

I’d like to start by saying happy birthday to Jesus, merry Christmas, and may we all have a happy new year. Secondly, I thought that since we’re in the midst of the holidays, we could illuminate a few Christmas traditions.

Let’s begin with Santa. The physical appearance of the modern day Santa was created by artist Thomas Nast in 1881, based on the famous poem “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” The image of Santa is said to have also been influenced by the Norse God Odin, a large, bearded man who rode Sleipner, an eight-legged horse. The historical Santa, on the other hand,  is actually based on Saint Nicholas, a 4th century Greek saint who was known for distributing small gifts to the people he encountered.

The reindeer don’t appear in any historical texts until the aforementioned poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Many people don’t know (actually, only I do) that the back-up reindeer are named Marvin, Bob, Zippy, Dave and Ajax. True story.

Next we’ll discuss the Christmas Tree. Evergreen trees have been important to many cultures, including the Chinese and the Hebrews. The tree as we know it today originated in Northern Germany. The tree was decorated with fruits and other foods, including dates and pretzels. Many times, these trees would be erected in the town square in order to provide the frigid folk something to dance around.

Finally, there’s the stocking. This originated when children filled their boots with straw and sugar and placed them near the chimney for Sleipner to eat (Remember Odin’s ride?). To reward their kindness, Odin would replace the contents of the boot with gifts. Soon, this tradition merged with that of Saint Nicholas.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this excursion through a few our most familiar Christmas traditions. I can hardly wait for Christmas Day. This year, Santa’s gonna bring me some new ideas to replace my worn-out old ones.

Merry Christmas!


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